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Prescription drug abuse is subject of local task force

Prescription drug abuse has been increasing among area youth, according to members of the Hubbard County Youth Drug and Alcohol Task Force.

The task force is launching a campaign to address this issue and make people aware of the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse.

Sarah Bowles, chemical health coordinator for the task force, said prescription drug abuse has always been around but it is coming back.

"It's now the second highest abused drug, behind marijuana," she said.

According to a study issued by the Office of National Drug Policy, a survey of Minnesota students reporting using pain relievers without a prescription was 4 percent of ninth-grade males, 4 percent of ninth-grade females, 9 percent of 12-grade males and 5 percent of 12th-grade females.

"What we're hearing is 4 to 5 percent of our kids are using prescription drugs, but I know in my heart that it's higher," Bowles said.

Prescription drug abuse is easy to access and is good money, she said. Prescription drugs are particularly dangerous because there is a misperception they are safe because they come from a doctor, she said.

"Kids are just trying anything and everything," Bowles said. "I've even heard some of the younger kids are trying Benadryl, which is not a prescription drug but can still be dangerous."

Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and Adderall are some of the drugs she's heard of kids using.

"These kids are not just taking these drugs for a high," she said. "They're actually self-medicating."

The Hubbard County Youth Drug and Alcohol Task Force wants the community to be informed about the dangers of prescription drug use.

"There's this false sense of these drugs being safe," Bowles said. "They're not. If too much is taken or they're mixed together, someone could stop breathing."

Bowles suggests members of the community take inventory of what types of prescription and over-the-counter drugs are in their home. Many teens are abusing prescription drugs because they are easily accessible. Here are some tips to prevent prescription drug abuse:

-Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access.

-Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider's advice and dosages.

-Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines.

-Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines in the trash.

-Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well.

The task force is continuing to work with the schools on drug prevention.

"The middle school and junior high age is the time to really get in there and talk to the kids," Bowles said. "It's that transition age."

The emphasis is on creating positive alternatives for students and keeping them involved in healthy activities.

The next goal for the task force is to create community coalitions throughout the county to address drug and alcohol issues.