Pubdate: Sat, 23 Sep 2017
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The London Free Press
Page: 11


Schools have been called upon to teach more than the Three Rs for many
decades now, but they should add one more assignment to their long
list of lessons: Warning students about drug use, especially deadly

There'll be some who'll say such a message will fall on deaf ears, but
we have a duty to try. Today's young people deserve credit for their
sensible approach to hazards such as cigarette smoking and impaired
driving - they certainly exhibit more common sense than many of their

Two groups, the Get Prescription Drugs Off the Street Society and Moms
Stop the Harm, have written letters to Alberta's health and education
ministers urging them to improve education around drug use. If the
government is smart, it will follow the advice.

Amy Graves, president of Get Prescription Drugs Off the Street
Society, says revisiting the curriculum is a chance to introduce
lessons on ways to reduce overdose risk, explain how to access support
for drug use and addiction, and educate students on important
legislation, such as the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, which gives
people immunity from possession charges if they call 911 in the event
of overdose.

"This is a matter of life or death that I feel cannot wait," says
Graves, whose own life experience shows how important such messages
can be.

She lost her brother, Joshua, 21, to an opioid overdose after he tried
a drug at a party.

"My brother was the most happy, successful person," says Graves. "He
didn't have a substance use problem, there were no warning signs or a
lead-up where you thought, 'Tomorrow, he's not going to come home.'
The night he died, he was buying new furniture for his apartment."

Joshua, who had moved to Nova Scotia, isn't alone. The Canadian
Institute for Health Information says there were an average of 11
emergency department visits per day attributed to opioid overdoses in
Alberta in 2016-17.

Proof of the need to impart a life-saving message to students is the
fact the most affected group was youth aged 15 to 24, with the
fastest-growing rate of such visits, tripling in five years.

The NDP appears ready to address this important file, with Education
Minister David Eggen reporting school superintendents were provided
with an Alberta Health fact sheet about fentanyl to share with
teachers and parents in 2016.

That's a start, but talking to students would be more effective. The
curriculum should reflect the seriousness of this health risk.
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