“We had 43 [deaths to opioid overdose] in 2015,” said John Shelton, director of Surry County Emergency Services, during an interview for WIFM’s segment “Doing Good for Others” in 2017. Yet that number climbed to 55 deaths in 2017, as Shelton explained to The Mount Airy News back in January.
As opioids, and drugs in general, become a bigger issue; it begs the question — how can we help students prevent drug abuse?
Some people deny that there is a problem, like this Elkin High School student who wished to remain anonymous. “I don’t think there are any drug problems in the school; the staff are overreacting and should do less drug tests.”
Other students admitted to knowing how to obtain drugs or that they had been offered drugs at school.
It is simply not the case that drugs are not in Elkin. So what is being done?
School-sponsored drug tests have proved to be effective with figuring out which kids are doing and possibly distributing the drugs. However, this only identifies the problem; it doesn’t treat those affected nor does it help prevent the use in the first place.
For treatment, referrals to specialists can be made by doctors and counselors, yet many do not as it can simply be too embarrassing for the student.
Another option is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) National helpline. This helpline is confidential and free. It does not require health insurance; it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and is in both English and Spanish. The service is for referrals only. One can contact them by phone at 800-622-4357, or by email at www.samhsa.org.
Outside of referrals there are also some major treatment centers, like Fellowship Hall in Greensboro (800-659-3381, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and Hebron Colony Ministries Inc., (828-963-4842, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Sundays).
However, everyone can agree that the best treatment is prevention. The teachers in Elkin High School have some ideas of changing the way the school and town handles prevention.
Foods teacher Cherie Cooke explained, “I think the problem is the lack of entertainment in the town of Elkin.”
While there are several activities in town, they rarely market to or could be applied to the teenage demographic.
After asking multiple students in Elkin High School about drug issues, it became clear that many people do not want to discuss drugs or have their name associated with the conversation. There is a terrible stigma associated with anyone who may even consider using them or anyone who admits they have considered it. That may be one reason people hesitate to get help when the problem first starts.
Some students do have ideas about supporting students struggling with drugs.
Senior Ryan Russell said, “A program [at school] for kids who are doing drugs would help.” Allowing them to join a class or program after school that helps teach them the danger of drugs and offers support could go a long way.
To accomplish the goal of keeping young people safe and educated, helping young people defeat drugs should be a top priority.
Harry De Celle, Henry Freeman, and Carson Pardue are Elkin High School English students.