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Kilgore ISD program focuses on prescription drug abuse by teens

By Clare McCarthy
April 20, 2017 at 11:09 p.m.

Erin LaCosteSmart Start Coalition coordinator

KILGORE — Erin LaCoste says community members need to be educated about safe medication practices and prescription drug abuse.

That's why the Kilgore Police Department and Kilgore ISD teamed with LaCoste's Smart Start Coalition to hold an education event Thursday at Kilgore Middle School called "Safe Medication Practices for Life."

"We've become a medicated society," LaCoste said. "We want to educate the community about safe medication practices so that Kilgore does not become just another statistic in the prescription drug abuse epidemic growing throughout the nation."

The Smart Start Coalition is one of three coalitions that cover 13 East Texas counties under the nonprofit organization Next Step Community Solutions. The coalitions work to help communities increase awareness of underage drinking and substance abuse.

"There's growing evidence of prescription drug abuse across the country," LaCoste said. "It is one of the four priorities that the state has tasked more than 40 coalitions across the state of Texas to address in our communities."

Dr. Brittany Parmentier, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Tyler School of Pharmacy, talked to parents and students Thursday about the importance of safe medication practices.

"Generally, (people) start abusing a prescription medication between 18 and 25 years of age," Parmentier said. "But we're targeting (younger) than that because there is such large access."

Parmentier said children ages 12 and older report using and abusing prescription medications. She said it is important to educate parents and children about how dangerous such medications can be.

"There's this myth that they're safer because they're prescription medications," Parmentier said. "But there is a lot of risk with them."

Charity Cabe, a mother who brought three of her teenage daughters to Thursday's program, said she wanted her children to attend because they have a history of substance abuse in their family.

"It's something that we have a personal experience with," Cabe said. "They have in their family a history of addiction with pain medicine and alcohol. … I just think it's an important issue to address, especially today with teenagers."

The event was a Generation Rx program, which was developed through a partnership between the Cardinal Health Foundation and the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy that aims to educate people about the potential dangers of misusing prescription medications.

LaCoste said the Smart Start Coalition and other coalitions provide educational programs such as these across East Texas. This is the first Smart Start program in the area targeting prescription drug abuse.

"Drug prevention is always an important topic to talk about with parents of middle school or high school students," said Kilgore police Chief Todd Hunter. "At this point in our nation, we are having an epidemic of illicit drug use with prescription medication, and too often the message has not gotten out there to parents about how to prevent that and how it's occurring."

Hunter said parents and grandparents need to be educated about safe medication practices.

"That's typically where the adolescent adults are coming into contact with this," Hunter said. "It's at their own homes or their grandparents' homes and it's in medication cabinets."

Hunter said the community needs to be proactive and educate others.

"Young adults can learn about this, and they learn they can experiment with this stuff, and the effects can be long reaching," Hunter said. "Oftentimes the experimentation can lead to an addiction. If we don't have it in the house, we don't run the risk of our children or grandchildren experimenting with those drugs that they find in their medication cabinets."

The Kilgore Police Department installed a permanent prescription drop box in its lobby that is available at all times for people to anonymously dispose of unwanted, unused or expired medications.

Hunter said the department also will participate in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 29 at Walgreens at 701 U.S. 259 Business in Kilgore. The event is another way for people to dispose of medications safely.

For free education resources and information, visit www.generationrx.org. For information or to join the Smart Start Coalition, visit www.nextstepcommunitysolutions.com.

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