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North Carolina School Program Tackles Addiction Head-On

If you remember anything at all from pre-kindergarten or kindergarten, those memories likely include your favorite nap time spot, playing with blocks or perhaps learning how to read. But for the kids in one North Carolina county, part of their school days will now be spent learning about some very adult prescription medications.

Kids and Adults Can Learn Something

Alamance County began Project HALO (“Healhy Alternatives for Little Ones”) last January after receiving a $10,000 grant from the American Medical Association Foundation.

The program is designed for kids ages 3-6 and aims to help them recognize the dangers of prescription drugs – including how to avoid them. Project HALO is also designed to educate parents on the ins and outs of properly storing and disposing of prescription medications.

Alamance County hopes to reach kids and parents at preschools, daycares, schools and churches, while also training educators to run the program so it can be sustained long after the funding runs out.

“A lot of people are a bit surprised that at that young age, children can understand what’s good for them and what is bad for them,” said Karen Webb, director of Alamance Citizens for a Drug Free Community. “Every child, no matter where they live, can benefit from this program.”

Taking Addiction by the Horns

Project HALO is especially critical because, according to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 71,000 U.S. kids went to emergency rooms in 2004 and 2005 due to accidental poisoning from pharmaceutical drugs.

Other states are also recognizing the importance of talking to kids about prescription drugs. Starting in September, House Bill 367, a bipartisan effort, will require Ohio schools to teach students about the dangers of prescription painkillers through an “opioid curriculum.”

Ohio school districts are already required to teach students about the harmful effects of tobacco use and certain illegal drugs, so lawmakers decided that adding painkillers into the discussion was simply the next logical step.

Protecting Kids is a National Priority

While painkiller abuse seems like an “adult” problem, nothing could be further from the truth.

Unfortunately, the abuse of (and addiction to) narcotic pain pills is rapidly becoming a serious problem among school-aged children.

The Dayton Daily News reports that almost 20 percent of high school students abuse narcotic painkillers. Roughly half of this demographic that reported being addicted to heroin also admitted to dealing with a painkiller addiction.

“Most people don’t realize that prescription opioids and heroin are close cousins,” said State Reps. Denise Driehaus (D) and Robert Sprague (R), as they testified in support of the bill. “Heroin use is simply a later phase of the same addiction.”


Additional Reading: Should Colleges Warn Parents About On-Campus Drug Abuse?