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November 22, 2011

Middle and high school students learn about dangers
of prescription drug abuse
Four out five of the top drugs abused by 12th graders are prescription drugs

Jenny Belsky, OMS II, talks with an Alexander High School
student at a Nov. 9 outreach event about medication safety.

WHO/WHAT:         Medical student volunteers from the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) and the OU-HCOM Pediatric Club are visiting health classes at area middle schools and high schools to educate students about medication safety and prescription drug abuse prevention.

The medical students perform skits based on “Generation Rx,” an initiative developed at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy that provides resources for schools and communities on the topic. Kaitlyn Kelly, a member of OU-HCOM’s AmeriCorps/ComCorps program who helped adapt the program for local use, said the skits demonstrate scenarios that students can identify with. One sketch, for example, depicts an injured volleyball player who begins relying too heavily on her Vicodin prescription. Following the performances, the medical students moderate a group discussion on the possible consequences of abusing prescription drugs.  

WHY:              The New York Times reports that drug overdoses in Ohio have more than quadrupled in the last decade. Further, southern Ohio counties have had the highest unintentional prescription medicine overdose death rates in the entire state, according to 2004-2008 Ohio Department of Health statistics.

Rep. Terry Johnson, D.O. ('91), OU-HCOM Centers for Osteopathic Research and Education assistant dean and director of the family medicine residency program at Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth, experienced the problem here in Appalachia while working as a coroner. The problem was so widespread, he co-sponsored legislation targeting prescription medicine abuse in the state, and in May 2011, Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law.

With four of the five top drugs abused by 12th graders being prescription drugs, according to a 2010 report by the Ohio Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force, reaching students is key. The OU-HCOM outreach to area health classes is aimed at helping them understand the consequences of abusing prescription drugs: short and long-term health conditions ranging from stroke to memory loss; physical harm due to accidents, sexual or physical abuse; social or emotional problems; and legal issues.

“Abusing prescription medication might seem safer to a high schooler than cocaine or another street drug,” Kelly said, “but it’s still really dangerous and can be deadly.”

WHEN/                               Nov. 30, Athens Middle School

WHERE:                            January 2012, Trimble High School

 CONTACT:     For more information about the program and for photos from
a Nov. 9 event with  Alexander High School health classes, please contact Richard Heck, writer/editor, OU-HCOM Office of Communication, 740.593.0896,

  Office of Communication
Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine
210 Irvine Hall, Athens, Ohio 45701
Tel: 740-593-2346 FAX: 740-593-0343
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Last updated: 01/28/2016