Mom issues warning on drug abuse in schools after daughter overdosed

Mom issues warning on drug abuse in schools after daughter overdosed
Agencies across Central VA will be collecting expired prescription pills on April 28. (Source: NBC12)

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - A Henrico mom asked NBC12 to investigate after she said her daughter overdosed on prescription medication in the middle of class.

While her daughter is now okay, she wants more to be done to prevent this from happening again.

It started like any other school day at Godwin High school, but it ended with a freshman girl in the hospital. Her mom says she overdosed on prescription medication in class.

"I was terrified," the mom told NBC12.

She does not want to be identified, but said telling her story was important. Her daughter was not prescribed anything, but the mom says the 15-year-old girl had taken almost a dozen pills that day.

"She took a bunch of Xanax and some Klonopin," the mom said. "The teacher in class found out that she was on the medication because she was having difficulties in class."

She says her daughter passed out.

The biggest question: where did she get the pills?

"Apparently, she had gotten drugs from somebody at the school," says the mom. "I've seen messages where kids have sent her messages asking her if she wants drugs, and they're not even charging her! They're offering them up!  Just giving them to her."

The end result could have been much worse than a hospital stay.

"She could have potentially died from that, gone into a coma," she said.

This mom says she has talked to her daughter about the dangers of illegal drugs, but they hadn't talked about abusing prescription medication.

"I was clueless," she said. "I had no idea. It just wasn't anything that ever entered my mind really."

And doctors say this mom is not alone. NBC12 spoke to Dr. Martin Buxton, chief of psychiatry at Chippenham & Johnston-Willis Hospitals and medical director of Tucker Pavilion. He says it's fair to call teens taking prescription medication recreationally an epidemic.

"Half the time, they don't know what they're taking," said Dr. Buxton.

He says teens see taking prescription medication for fun as a "rite of passage."

"The substances have become more riskier and more dangerous," he said.

Dr. Buxton says if addiction runs in the family, it can easily lead to searching for a bigger high which can be found by taking heroin or cocaine.

"You're literally awakening the demons. Once that's awakened, you're going to continue using," he said.

In 2013, the Virginia Department of Health polled 1,800 high school students in central Virginia and asked: have they taken a prescription drug (such
Adderall, Ritalin, or Xanax) without a doctor's prescription one or more times during their life.

About 17 percent said yes.

NBC12 decided to look at the numbers for the major counties from this past school year.

When it comes to possession or using drugs that are illegal (like heroin) or having a high potential for abuse like Ritalin and Adderall: Chesterfield had the most incidents with 89, Henrico had 25, Richmond had 35 and Hanover was at 13, according to numbers sent to the Virginia Department of Education.

Drugs like Xanax and Klonopin fall under a different category. There were no incidents documented in any school district for sale or distribution. But doctors say, that doesn't mean it's not happening.

"We have people hospitalized everyday," said Buxton.

Buxton says having drug education programs in the schools is important, but there's more that needs to be done at home.

"These parents who think their kids are not doing it should be saying, 'I don't know that he is, and I hope he's not,' but get rid of that belief system that they know what's going on."

Tips include: don't assume illegal drugs are the only threat, talk to your children about the negative side effects of prescribed medicine and avoid stockpiling medication.

Like most school districts, Henrico County Public Schools says it offers classes on the dangers of addictive drugs. There are also drug sweeps at the high schools.

HCPS released this statement in regards to this mother's concerns:

Any school is a window into its community. If something's going on "out there" in the community, then schools are dealing with it inside. The approaches schools take include education, prevention, intervention, and recovery. The support offered would be unique to the specific needs of a student who may be battling drug abuse or addiction. If a student is struggling with prescription drugs, it's important to know that they're not alone. Help is available. Talk to your school counselor, your principal, or any adult with whom the student feels comfortable having a discussion.

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