Last month, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Discovery Education came to McLean High School during Red Ribbon Week to launch an educational initiative titled Operation Prevention.
Due to the increase in opioid abuse in recent years, the two organizations decided to launch Operation Prevention—a virtual field trip which hopes to educate students about opioids and eliminate substance abuse.
Since its establishment in 1985, Red Ribbon Week aims to increase drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention awareness. The campaign is held annually from Oct. 21 to Oct. 31.
“I think educating students on how powerful some of these painkillers [are], …the impact it can have on your brain and behavior…can be another important tool to help awareness and education,” said Bill Goodwyn, president and CEO of Discovery Education, in an interview with The Highlander.
According to drugabuse.gov, the number of opioid pain relievers in the U.S. has skyrocketed in the past 25 years—from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. A 2014 study found that 168,000 adolescents had an addiction to prescription painkillers.
The dramatic increase in opioid prescription painkillers, such as Vicodin and Percocet, has led to opioid dependency and addiction among patients who have previously taken painkillers. These patients turn to recreational opioids such as heroin and morphine in order to sustain their dependency.
However, there are many methods of drug prevention and safety protocols which students can follow.
“Be mindful of what you have in your own house,” said Chuck Rosenberg, Acting Administrator of the DEA. Rosenberg shared his insights on the American opioid crisis in an interview with The Highlander.
“Lots of times we end up with very dangerous drugs in our own homes with no intent to use them in a bad way,” Rosenberg said.
Students who watched Operation Prevention in the library were also given the chance to ask a panel of administrators and educators about the increasing prevalence of drugs in today’s society.
“I think if people take the time to watch [the broadcast]…it’ll change some things about how people perceive drugs. They [will] learn some of the consequences that come with taking heroin, marijuana, cocaine or any of those kind of drugs,” said freshman Alexander Pearce, who was a member of the Operation Prevention student panel. “Maybe they’ll think twice.”
The panel explained the DEA’s 360 Strategy to combat opioid abuse. The plan concentrates on three areas: law enforcement, diversion control and community outreach.
Operation Prevention also encourages students to communicate with one another.
“I think the most important conversations you can have, whether it’s during Red Ribbon Week or any other week of the year, is with your friends, with your family, with the people you love,” Rosenberg said.
Rosenberg urges students to build strong relationships with those close to them.
“What we know is that if you don’t have that relationship with your teachers…and you don’t have that relationship with your parents…you inevitably have that relationship with one another. That’s the key,” Rosenberg said.
With Operation Prevention, both Goodwyn and Rosenberg hope to help students and families stuggling with drug abuse.
“Look, at the end of the day, the whole goal of this is to save lives,” Goodwyn said.