West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s office has several initiatives related to the drug epidemic, including an 8th grade education program.
“It’s good to start young so that way they have this knowledge and they can make decisions later on in their life,” said Bradley Gutta, a second year student in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy.
Gutta is one of the students in WVU’s Schools of Pharmacy and Nursing teaching 8th grade students across the state the consequences of bad decisions regarding drugs.
“We wanted to actually explain to them how they work so that way they can make knowledgeable decisions about drugs and drugs of abuse because it’s going to affect them short term and long term,” she said.
These presentations at schools across the state help prepare 8th graders for their move to high school, and the peer pressures that can come with it.
“Having that knowledge of how to avoid or maybe seek out the attention at the high school, a counselor, a trusted teacher or principal is very vital,” said Suncrest Middle School principal Dawna Hicks. “We don’t want to wait till the spring semester. We want to wait until now so if they have questions they can come and see us.”
These presentations are more than just telling students not to use drugs; they’re seeing the paraphernalia, side effects on appearances and experiencing simulated side effects of use and addiction.
“Listening to people talk is helpful, but when you get that physical or kinetic interaction it helps you remember it more,” Gutta said.
The Attorney General’s Office also conducted this program last year, but expanded it after seeing success with students.
“I hope that if they know of a friend or family member or a neighbor who may be taking drugs or may be in trouble that they’ll feel comfortable enough of going to a parent or a teacher or a guidance counselor and saying I think so and so may have a problem,” said Pam Krushansky with the Attorney General’s Office.
Although the information is vital for the younger students, they’re not the only ones learning.
“As pharmacists, as people we are going to be in the medical field and this is what we wanna do,” Gutta explained. “We wanna learn all this information so we can give all the information that we’ve learned to other people. Talking about opioid abuse is something really specific to our state.”
“We want our kids to understand from folks that live it everyday and see the dangers across the state what the effects are going to be on the kids and families moving forward if they choose that lifestyle,” added Hicks.