Perhaps one of the most important demographics to talk to about heroin and drugs in general is the teenage demographic. This is because teenagers are always under immense peer pressure and may feel a continuous struggle to belong. In light of the heroin epidemic that continues to grow in this country, this discussion becomes more important than ever.
Despite the fact that heroin use in high schools is down to one of its lowest rates in history, it is apparently right after teenagers leave high school that the problem starts. Federal data notes that the use of heroin among those between 18 and 25 years old has more than doubled since 2002. This is why it is so important to talk to them early, while they're still in high school, so that they'll make the right decisions going forward once they are out on their own.
In addition to heroin, schools are also talking to kids about the dangers of becoming addicted to prescription opioids. This is because 45 percent of those who are addicted to heroin are addicted to opioids as well. Sadly, Erin Parsons, a teacher in Glen Dale, West Virginia, told US News that all of the students in attendance at her school, John Marshall High School, have a personal connection to the epidemic. Whether someone in their family is an addict, or whether it's a friend of the family, all of the students can cite some or another personal experience with addiction.
Parsons and her husband Dave, another teacher at John Marshall, established the Marshall County Drug Free Club, a collaboration with Reynolds Memorial Hospital, in order to help both middle and high school students within their district. Every other week, the club meets to discuss issues related to drug abuse and addiction in order to educate students on the perils of addiction and how to avoid becoming addicted to drugs themselves.
Students also go on field trips sponsored by the club, and they work together on community service projects. The point of these fun activities, aside from being projects for the club to work together on as a group, is to show the students that there are plenty of better things to engage in than the taking of drugs. This year alone, about one-third of the student population in John Marshall's district are members of the club.
In order to become a member, students themselves must, understandably, take a drug test, and they must also agree to be screened four or five times throughout the school year. Reynolds Memorial Hospital pays for these tests – all the students have to do is show up. The students' parents and their primary doctors are notified of the results, but the leaders of the club are not.
Being a member of the club is infectious, as many of its members want to take what they've learned and help educate others on the dangers of substance abuse. Some of the high schoolers, in league with the U.S. attorney's office, created public service announcements that run on local television stations and seek to educate others on the effects of heroin abuse.