DC students get lesson in saying ‘No’ as part of drug prevention education

District schools are taking a new tack when it comes to teaching kids how to avoid drugs. Along with stocking schools with naloxone, teachers are also working with students on what to do in real-life scenarios.

In establishing the drug, alcohol and tobacco use unit, D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said DCPS wants to ensure students possessed what he called critical skills when it comes to substance abuse.

“The skills around refusal is the first step, right? You know, ‘I’m not interested,'” Ferebee said while visiting the Coolidge High School nurses’ suite Thursday morning.

“We know this type of unit around awareness of the potential consequences of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, tobacco abuse, is important,” he continued.

The suite, which is operated by the school and care is coordinated through Mary’s Center, has more than four beds for ill students as well as remote check-in for students. It also puts a supply of naloxone on the shelves for every District public and charter school this year.

There have been reported student overdoses at Coolidge High this school year, and school nurse Andrella Adams said she has seen drug use among the teenagers.

“Primarily with the edibles — whether it be the gummies, or the cookies, or the chocolates,” she said. “And it’s quite scary for the student who does try it for the first time.”

Adams says students have approached her to ask what drugs can actually do to their bodies.

She often responds to their questions by showing them YouTube clips depicting “a person that’s actually on an edible, or on a particular opiate drug … It literally scares them.”

Staff at local schools aren’t just on the lookout for edibles. Illicit drugs are being shared in many forms, including drinks containing fentanyl, which have previously been discovered at schools in our region.

Director of D.C. Behavioral Health Dr. Barbara Bazron says drugs disguised as candies are a big problem.

“There are the pills that are pressed. And they look like, when I was young … these little candies.” she said. “There were multiple colored little round pills and they had a Sweet-Tart kind of taste.”

Bazron says she carries around a box of Narcan in her purse, just in the event she encounters someone during an opioid overdose. For drugs like fentanyl, there is no time to waste.

“Fentanyl is a very lethal drug,” she said “And what we find is, in 95% of the overdoses, fentanyl is present.”

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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