Drug use recognition training held in Hillsborough
The Orange Partnership for Alcohol & Drug Free Youth sponsored a training event for school and law enforcement professionals on Jan. 23 in which the participants learned about recognizing impaired persons, trends in prescription drug abuse and court dispositions.
The event also provided law enforcement professionals with information on identifying prescription drug diversion crimes and steps to take in investigating such offenses. Presenters included N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper Joshua Church, N.C. SBI Supervising Special Agent Donnie Varnell and Special Agent Gray Fullwood and Assistant District Attorney for Orange and Chatham counties, Jeff Nieman.
Law enforcement and school professionals across the state have been noticing an increase in prescription drug abuse, and according to Varnell, there has been an 82 percent increase in emergency room visits by high school aged adolescents for prescription related incidents.
The most common source for prescription drugs among that population is their homes.
Varnell also discussed strategies for reducing abuse including prescription drug take-back events, permanent drop boxes at local law enforcement departments, and increased use of the controlled substance reporting system among pharmacies and prescribers.
More than 40 people from various agencies attended, including Orange County Schools, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, Orange County Department of Social Services, Partnership for Drug Free North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice, Alamance Citizens for a Drug Free Community, as well as police departments from Hillsborough, Carrboro, Burlington and Elon, UNC Public Safety and the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department.
“I think this information would be very useful for all investigators, but patrol, community services and school resource officers would benefit from it as well,” said Sgt. Billy Austin with the Carrboro Police Department. “I feel this was one of the most useful classes I have attended in a while.”
Wendy Stewart, a school social work specialist commented, “I certainly learned new information about recognizing people who are impaired. We need as many resources and information as possible in order to rule out substance use as a presenting factor for academic, social, and behavioral problems ... for example, distinguishing a student who cannot stay awake in class due to a possible sleep disorder from one who has been popping pills. If we cannot do that, then we are limited in our attempts to properly assess need and plan strategies.”
The Orange Partnership for Alcohol and Drug Free Youth is a coalition of stakeholders including local agencies, organizations, parents, caregivers and youth working to reduce underage drinking and prescription drug abuse. The Partnership is housed at Mental Health America of the Triangle.