Montana high school students report increase in RX drug abuse

MISSOULA COUNTY

By Will Wadley, KECI Weekend Anchor, wwadley@keci.com
POSTED: 6:50 PM May 06 2013   UPDATED: 9:18 PM May 06 2013
RX HS
MISSOULA, Mont. -

They’re high schoolers, but the way an average teenager can list off prescription medication makes them sound like psychiatrists.

In the last 5 years, prescription drug use - and abuse - in the nation’s high schools has exploded.

According to a study by the Metlife Foundation, since 2008 the percentage of high schoolers who abuse prescription drugs rose 33 percent. Now, for every 20 high school students, five of them have abused prescription medication at least once.

"It's kind of scary that these things are going on," said Hellgate Student Resource Officer Jim Johnson.

In his seven years working in the schools, Johnson says he has watched the epidemic materialize.

"They'll sell them by the tablet. One kid actually snorted some during class," Johnson said.

High school senior Jacob Weimer says it only took a few days at a new school before he experienced it firsthand.

"About four days in, this kid came up to me with a Ritalin wanting 5 bucks for a pill," said Weimer. “When you hear them talking about it, it's either that they have it and they want to try and sell it, or it's that they've done it the night before or something.”

Senior Collin Dyer said he’s heard that for certain types of pain killers, the price can be a lot higher.

"Some pills can go as much as 40 to 60 dollars," said Dyer.

Sophomore Gavin Crandell says it’s easy for a high schooler to get pharmaceuticals

"You don't need a drug dealer to get pills. Everybody's pretty much prescribed medication. Everybody's got some sort of medication," said Crandell. "Kids were giving them out in class. I've seen it.”

He says teens sometimes buy and take certain powerful painkillers to supplement a more precious commodity - alcohol.

"You can take two shots and take a klonopin and be drunk like you took 15 shots," said Crandell.

Dyer says pharmaceuticals are treated differently than illicit drugs.

"Prescription pills don't have the same stigma as street drugs. If (students) want them, it's a lot easier to just open your parents' medicine cabinet."

Johnson says locking up the medicine cabinet is one of the first things parents can do to try and fight the abuse.

"If you are prescribed medication, be aware of how many tablets are in the bottle, and keep track,” said Johnson.

But he says it will take more than that. "You need to spend time with your kids. Have meals with them. Pay attention to their behavior," said Johnson.

Crandell says he feels the same way.

"Some parents don't even think about it because they didn't do it when they were a kid. You have to know your kid."