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Should Painkiller Abuse Education be Mandatory?

Since opiate addiction has officially reached epidemic status, it’s more important than ever to spread the word about the dangers of narcotic painkillers. And Ohio has taken the bull by the horns when it comes to educating students about the dangers of opiate painkiller abuse. The state recently introduced a new bill – which was quickly signed into law – that requires schools to teach students about the dangers of prescription painkillers through an “opioid curriculum.”

Mandatory Addiction Education

Benefits of educating students about painkiller addictionKnown as House Bill 367, this new addiction referendum was created by State Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). The bill received bipartisan legislation and will go into effect during the upcoming 2015 school year.

Ohio’s Governor’s Cabinet Opiate Action Team, which was formed in the fall of 2011 to address opioid addiction issues, is now tasked with developing and recommending a painkiller lesson plan to the State Education Department by July 1.

“The best way to avoid opioid abuse is through prevention,” said Driehaus.

“Ohio already requires health classes to cover things like nutrition and alcohol abuse, so it would not be difficult to also address the dangers of opioids – especially since many students have already been exposed to opioids after a sports injury or surgery.”

Proactive Teaching

It’s definitely worth mentioning that Ohio already had an addition education plan in place. School districts in the state are already required to teach students about the dangers of tobacco use and the harmful effects of certain illegal drugs. Proponents say the new opiate painkiller education was a logical addition to the plan.

School districts in the state are already required to teach students about the dangers of tobacco use and the harmful effects of certain illegal drugs.

Drug addiction and opiate overdose deaths continue to be a major problem throughout Ohio. A recent study conducted by the Ohio Department of Health found that drug overdose deaths have increased 366 percent between 2000 and 2012, with 1,914 unintentional overdose deaths in 2012 alone. Not surprisingly, prescription drugs were involved in most of the unintentional overdoses.

Victims are Getting Younger

The trend of prescription drug misuse has quickly trickled down to school-aged children. The Dayton Daily News reported that nationally, one in five high school students abuse narcotic painkillers. About half of the teenagers and young adults who are addicted to heroin are also addicted to prescription painkillers.

“Most people don’t realize that prescription opioids and heroin are close cousins,” said Driehaus and State Rep. Robert Sprague (R) as they testified in support of the bill. “Heroin use is simply a later phase of the same addiction.”

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Benefits of an Education Plan

The good news is that teen painkiller abuse is already dropping in Ohio.

Addiction education for students to teach about the dangers of prescription painkillersIn 2012, approximately 21.3 percent of high school students admitted to using painkillers without a prescription at least once, but the 2013 Ohio Risk Youth Behavior Survey found that only 12.8 percent of current high school students admitted to doing this.

In the last two years, Ohio high school students have also used less cocaine, alcohol, heroin and steroids.

Driehaus and other elected officials remain optimistic that their latest addiction education bill will yield results which show the state’s anti-drug initiatives continue to be effective.

Additional Reading: America’s Painful Love Affair with Painkillers

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