Local high schools address heroin issue


Courtesy of Cole Rose

Alex Delaney-Gesing

The issue of heroin use has affected more than just one demographic and geographic location throughout the country. Known as “dope,” “smack” or “horse,” overall usage of the drug has risen by more than 60 percent in the last 14 years, according to the Teen Rehab Center.

Young adults are one of the most susceptible demographics to the addicting and detrimental effects of heroin use. Around 0.8 percent of all high school seniors in the United States have used heroin at least once, and 0.3 percent have used it at least once in the past month, the Teen Rehab Center reported. 

Taken in a national scale, 0.8 percent totals 660,000 students who may face the risk of suffering serious and life-threatening consequences .

Educating students on the effects of the opioid has been proven to lower the chances of their addiction.

In Portage County, an estimated 23 percent of all individuals who use heroin have been found to become addicted to it, according to the 2016 Portage County Community Health Status Assessment.

Some schools in Portage County and neighboring Summit County are doing their part to educate students on the dangers and risks involved in doing drugs — especially heroin.

Tallmadge High School has taken the anti-drug movement even further, focusing specifically on the detrimental usage of heroin and fentanyl.

The high school held two substance and drug abuse meetings this past spring for students, parents and residents to address the community-wide issue.

“We don’t turn a blind eye to what is going on,” said Mike Bluey, assistant principal at Tallmadge High School. “We are always looking for ways to further make positive headway toward battling the problem.”

For adolescents aged 12-17 during 2015, only 1 percent claimed to have tried heroin.

Approximately 55 percent of teen users cite peer pressure, as well as stress and media culture as major factors of influence in their decision to start using. 

At Tallmadge, Bluey said, there are various student groups designed to be proactive in spreading the anti-drug word and awareness through signage in the building. A resource officer was hired for the new school year as a means to ensure student safety and to spread awareness

Stow-Munroe Falls High School has also been instrumental in spreading the word to its student body on heroin and other drug abuse.

This past spring, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Michael Astrab and Assistant U.S. Attorney Bob Bulford spoke at two drug awareness assemblies held for students and their parents.

Astrab, a part of the Northeast Ohio Heroin and Opioid Task Force, and Bulford, a supervisor of the U.S. Attorneys’ Akron and Youngstown offices, discussed both the health risks of drug use, as well as how such actions can cause an individual to face repercussions with the law, the Stow Sentry reported.

”It’s important that (students) are educated on the consequences that arise from drug and alcohol abuse,” Superintendent Tom Bratten said in the article, quoted from a press release from the spring. “We are committed to keeping our students safe in and outside of school.”

Last Tuesday the high school and middle school held two seminars sponsored by the Narcotics Overdose Prevention & Education (NOPE) Task Force, a nonprofit organization originally formed in Florida to fight the use of drugs and narcotics.

The seminars’ goals were “to catch drug abuse early and instill an anti-drug message in young people’s minds so they never get started on drugs in the first place,” according to an Oct. 11 Akron Beacon Journal article.

A Youth to Youth (Y2Y) Kickoff Training Day was held this past  Monday to promote drug awareness and education at the high school. Students participated in team building exercises led by guest speaker Ty Sells, a representative from the program. 

While Kent’s Theodore Roosevelt High School doesn’t have specific drug awareness programs for its students, its administration has been progressive in making the anti-drug message known.

An assembly this past spring featured a presentation from the Cuyahoga County-based, anti-drug addiction organization called Robby’s Voice. The group was founded by the family of 20-year-old Robby Brandt, a victim of a heroin overdose, who died in 2011.

A similar assembly focusing on the risks of drug use will be held (this fall), said a secretary at Roosevelt High School.

As a precaution — and sometimes as needed in the past — the high school offers a student assessment counselor for those who have begun using heroin or another drug, according to Love.

“As soon as we find out a student might be using, we set them up with the counselor and special recommendation will be made for them to go to a detox or local treatment facility,” Love said.

Alex Delaney-Gesing is a senior reporter. Contact her at [email protected].