Five teens at a Maryland high school were recently found to have overdosed on prescription drugs during the school day. The Frederick County Sheriff’s Department responded to calls from Oakdale High School in Ijamsville and sent four female students to the hospital. The fifth was released to her parents. The incident is representative of the problem of prescription drugs and heroin in Maryland and across the country. Young people are abusing these drugs in record numbers and are facing the consequences.
Five Young Overdoses
The incident occurred late morning on a Wednesday at the Maryland high school. Sheriff’s officials believe that one student, a 15-year-old girl, gave four other students prescription drugs. All five took the drugs and became sick. Four needed to be taken to an emergency room by ambulance, while the fifth was able to leave school with her parents.
The hospitalized girls recovered from the overdose, but were suffering from dizziness, nausea and shortness of breath and were vomiting and lacked coordination at the time they were transported to the hospital. It is believed that the girls took Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, and Adderall, a prescription stimulant used to treat ADHD. The girl who provided the drugs was expected to be charged. The school sent a letter home to all parents to inform them of the incident and to say that all five students involved would receive disciplinary action.
Youth Drug Abuse in Maryland
As with many states and local communities around the country, many counties in Maryland are seeing epidemics of both prescription and heroin abuse in teens and young adults. According to survey data from 2013, 18 percent of students in Frederick County report having misused prescription drugs. This is higher than the state average for Maryland of around 15 percent. Prescription drugs at school are not the only issue, though. According to the survey, 30 percent of the students in the county had been offered illicit drugs by another student on school grounds or had sold the drugs themselves.
The problem is not just for the young, sheriff’s officials say. People from all walks of life and of all ages are abusing prescription drugs, and that epidemic is creating a new one: heroin use. Although not the case with the five Oakdale teens, many prescriptions being abused are narcotic painkillers. These are a natural gateway to heroin use because they are similar types of drugs. When the prescription painkillers become scarce or too expensive, addicts turn to heroin for a comparable high.
Earlier this year, Gov. Larry Hogan declared Maryland to have a statewide heroin crisis. Heroin in the city of Frederick is now the preferred drug of abuse, while several years ago it was prescription painkillers.
While prescription painkiller and heroin abuse affects all kinds of people, teens are especially vulnerable. Frederick County is working to educate young people about the drugs’ dangers, improve monitoring of prescribed drugs and has provided drop-off boxes for the disposal of prescription medications. Heroin may be the bigger problem in the state now, but it all starts with prescription drug abuse. If teens can be prevented from abusing prescription drugs, they can be prevented from becoming statistics in the heroin epidemic.