4 Sooner rather than later

Week­end, Septem­ber 15-17, 2017 Ad­vo­cate says Grade 9 too late to teach pupils about dan­gers Hal­i­fax

Metro Canada (Halifax) - - HALIFAX - Yvette d’en­tremont Metro | Hal­i­fax

The rapidly changing opioid land­scape means Nova Sco­tia stu­dents need an up­dated school cur­ricu­lum de­liv­ered at an ear­lier age.

That’s what the pres­i­dent of Get Pre­scrip­tion Drugs Off the Street So­ci­ety has said in a let­ter to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

Amy Graves lost her brother Josh in 2011 af­ter he died from an ac­ci­den­tal over­dose of hy­dro­mor­phone in the An­napo­lis Val­ley.

When the cur­rent cur­ricu­lum was cre­ated in 2014, she said il­licit opi­oids like fen­tanyl and car­fen­tanil weren’t preva­lent in the prov­ince. In ad­di­tion, she said it’s es­sen­tial stu­dents know how to re­duce the risks as­so­ci­ated with sub­stance use.

“It’s great that there’s lots of pre­ven­tion dis­cus­sion in our schools, but I think an im­por­tant thing we have to ac­knowl­edge is that not ev­ery stu­dent will be ab­sti­nent from drugs and al­co­hol,” Graves said.

“It’s great to tell them and give them strate­gies on how to be, but we also have to ac­knowl­edge that some will use and they need the in­for­ma­tion to re­duce their risk.”

Among the key pieces of in­for­ma­tion Graves would like to see im­ple­mented or en­hanced within the cur­rent cur­ricu­lum is aware­ness of Nalox­one, the im­por­tance of not us­ing alone, and in­for­ma­tion about the Good Sa­mar­i­tan Drug Over­dose Act.

“The Good Sa­mar­i­tan Law is cru­cial for our youth to know.

“If they are at a party, if they are in a sit­u­a­tion where some­one has used drugs and is in med­i­cal dis­tress, they do not have to fear get­ting in trou­ble by call­ing for help,” she said. Graves pointed to the most re­cent Nova Sco­tia Stu­dent Drug Use Sur­vey com­pleted in 2013.

In Grade 7, four per cent of stu­dents were us­ing non-med­i­cal pain pills, That jumped to 11.3 per cent in Grade 9, 13.9 per cent in Grade 10, and 16.4 per cent in Grade 12.

She said it’s not un­til Grade 9 that the cur­ricu­lum cov­ers per­sonal use and the po­ten­tial harms of opioid use.

With Grade 7 stu­dents re­port­ing the use of opioid pain killers more than al­co­hol or to­bacco, Graves thinks se­ri­ous dis­cus­sion needs to take place ear­lier.

“With things like al­co­hol and mar­i­juana the smell is harder to hide. Il­licit opi­oids are eas­ier to hide, eas­ier to con­ceal and par­ents and teach­ers might not know the symp­toms of use or rec­og­nize those signs,” she said.

“The three most dan­ger­ous words are ‘not my kid.’ Over­dose ad­dic­tion doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate and ev­ery fam­ily I talk to says I never thought this would hap­pen to us. Schools and par­ents need to have th­ese con­ver­sa­tions.”

Over­dose ad­dic­tion doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate and ev­ery fam­ily i talk to says i never thought this would hap­pen to us. schools and par­ents need to have th­ese con­ver­sa­tions. Amy Graves

Kevin Tuong/metro

Ad­vo­cate Amy graves lost her brother to opi­ate over­dose.

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