The Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project, in Bryan County, Georgia, is working to fight against the deadly effects of the opioid epidemic. This opioid prevention program aims to address drug use in high school and help create drug abuse education in schools. The project first launched last year as a collaborative effort led by key community stakeholders, including schools, law enforcement, pharmacies, and first responders.

The program, in addition to addressing drug use in high school, also focuses on people at any age who could be at risk to develop an addiction. The program puts the spotlight on the fact that many people become unintentionally addicted to opioids after receiving a prescription to take them by their doctor. There’s a tendency to feel like something is safe it’s prescribed, and then ultimately an addiction forms and someone’s use of a substance is no longer in their control.

Along with efforts from the Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project, there are other efforts focusing exclusively on teens and drug use in schools. For example, the Savannah-Chatham County Public School system recently held a Back-to-School event at the Savannah Mall. The event was sponsored by the Gateway Community Service Board and the Georgia Apex Program. Both organizations provide school-based mental health services, including substance misuse early detection and prevention.

The Apex program is a partnership between the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. Access Mental Health Agency provides services to school-aged children, including ways to prevent addiction such as mindfulness training.

Parents of students in these Georgia school systems say they have concerns about young people and their exposure to pain medications. These Georgia communities are exploring ways to introduce more drug education into schools to help young people understand the risks.

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Trends

Opioid prevention programs can be especially important for teens; after all, teen prescription drug abuse remains high. According to statistics on teenage prescription drug abuse, prescription drug misuse, including opioids, is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. In 2016, 3.6% of young people aged 12 to 17 said they’d misused opioids over the past year. Much of the misuse of drugs among teens is related to prescription medications rather than heroin.

Statistics on teenage prescription drug abuse also indicate that teens find it relatively easy to access prescription drugs. For example, according to Health and Human Services (HHS), among surveyed high school seniors in 2018, nearly 33% said these drugs were very accessible.

Teenage opioid deaths are increasing, even though they are lower among this age group than older demographics. According to HHS, in 2015, 4,325 youths between the ages of 15 and 24 died from an overdose, and more than half involved opioids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for every young adult who dies from an overdose, there are 119 emergency room visits and 22 admissions for treatment.

In Bryan County, the rates of teen prescription drug abuse and statistics on teenage prescription drug abuse are even more alarming than they are nationwide. For example, around one in 20 high school-aged students in Bryan County has misused a prescription drug in the past month, according to recent survey results. Bryan County also has a higher prescribing rate for opioids than all nearby counties including Chatham County. The survey used self-reported data, so some in the community believe the actual number could in fact be significantly higher.

Bryan County Opioid Prevention Project

Teen addiction is something that affects everyone in a community, and substance misuse can impact a teen well into adulthood. The Bryan County Opioid Prevention Program is using a specific education program called “This Is Not About Drugs.” The goal is to help young people learn how to make good decisions.

Much of the information focuses on helping young people understand the effects of drugs on the teenage brain. Teens’ brains aren’t fully developed until they’re well into adulthood, so the prevention project wants school-aged young people to realize they’re more susceptible to developing an addiction if they’re experimenting with substances when they’re young.

The program also includes stories from real youth who have struggled with addiction to opioids or who have seen people in their family dealing with substance use issues.

According to the creators of the Bryan County project, the goal is to educate not just students but the public at large. For example, a big trigger situation for opioid misuse can be the removal of wisdom teeth. Doctors will usually prescribe opioids after this surgery, and young people may take them without realizing the possible effects and their addictive nature.

Organizers also feel that even beyond educating young people on the effects of drugs and addictions, their program is one that’s more about the concept of making good choices. It’s critical to combat teen addiction early-on, and prevention is one of the best ways to do that. Opioid prevention programs for youth offer a unique opportunity to proactively address addiction and the effects of opioids.

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