‘Pharmacists Teach’ takes awareness program to high schools

WAIMEA — Leland Ibara doesn’t want prescription drug abuse to continue to affect the Garden Isle.

That’s why the pharmacist with Longs Drugs teaches a class on the dangers of prescription drug abuse to ninth-graders at Waimea High School.

“People may think these medications are safe because they are written by a doctor and dispensed by a pharmacist, but only when used by the person it was intended for and when used as prescribed,” said Ibara, a WHS graduate. “Sometimes people still may get addicted when used as directed.”

The class is part of “Pharmacists Teach,” a national program by CVS and Longs Drugs, which connects pharmacists with high schools to teach students about prescription drug abuse.

So far, WHS and Kapaa High School have benefited from the program, which began during the 2015-16 school year.

The program has been conducted in 40 states and has reached over 100,000 students in Hawaii and on the Mainland. The curriculum was developed by CVS Health and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Pharmacists participate in this program on a voluntary basis, said Tom Davis, president of pharmacy professional services for CVS Health.

On Kauai, Ibara presents statistics about prescription drug abuse in the community and video interviews with people whose lives have been affected by prescription drug abuse.

“I tell them the drug epidemic here on Kauai will affect you or someone you know in our community directly or indirectly,” he said. “Drug abusers will start feeding their habits when they can’t get their hands on it by stealing, or they maybe inebriated by a drug and cause an accident .”

Teenage prescription drug abuse is happening on Kauai, said Theresa Koki, coordinator for Life’s Choices Kauai.

“After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances, age 14 and older,” she said.

On the Garden Isle, the illegal use of opioids and other drugs has continued to increase, Koki said. Teens get them from friends and relatives, and often that person doesn’t realize it, Koki said.

“Boys and girls tend to abuse some types of prescription drugs for different reasons,” Koki said. “For example, boys are more likely to abuse prescription stimulants to get high, while girls tend to abuse them to stay alert or to lose weight.”

Prescription drugs abused by Kauai teenagers include Vidicon, Hydrocodone, Oxycontin, Xanax, Valium, amphetamine and Ritalin, Koki said.

There are several ways Kauai is combating the drug epidemic, including Kauai Police Department’s Drug Take-Back Day. Another way to curb the issue is getting to work on opening the Adolescent Drug Healing and Treatment Center, she said.

“The most effective method of action in hindering the progression of the prescription drug epidemic is the establishment of an inpatient treatment facility for youth,” she said. “With more available treatment options, more substance-addicted youth can receive the help they desperately need and deserve.”

Dalton Matsuyama, health teacher at WHS, believes it’s beneficial for his students to learn about the drugs from a different person,

“It’s not just me saying it,” he said.

WHS has been offering the program to freshman since last year.

“We try to hit them young because we assume it’ll happen at a younger age,” Matsuyama said.

The first year of the program went well.

“It really focused on the danger of abusing drugs and defined to the kids what abuses is and what defines prescription drugs,” he said.

By going into the classrooms, Ibara hopes he can make a difference.

“The most rewarding part about doing the presentation is hoping that I can reach out to at least by one person by making them aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse or they may say something to help a friend,” he said.

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