DOBSON — A new group aimed at focusing on health-related issues in Surry County is seeking to measure the prescription drug abuse in the area, especially among youth.
The coalition, which is an extension of the Connect the Dots program which focuses on alcohol-related issues, met yesterday to sort through its next steps in addressing drug-related issues in the county. The group is Surry CARES, which stands for a Coalition for Awareness, Resources, Education and Support.
The next steps for the group include rallying community support and organizing questions for a survey to determine the level of abuse in the area among youth and adults.
Following a coalition-building training session a few weeks ago to learn how to form a sustainable group, members were asked to identify an issue in the county needing to be tackled. The initial reaction was to focus on prescription drug abuse and misuse by people of all age groups.
During the meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the group reviewed both raw local and national data results gauging the use of drugs by youth. Group members said the local data is raw information that must be analyzed and compared to state norms.
According to the N.C. State Center for Health Statistics, there were more than 22 deaths by prescription drug overdose per 100,000 people in parts of the mountains and foothills in 2006-2007, which is more than twice that of the rest of the state.
According to the data, 62 people died in Surry County from 2000 to 2007 due to unintentional poisoning. That data states that Surry County has a 14.01 to 22.29 rate per 100,000 population for death by drugs, which places the county in the top 28 counties out of the 100 in the state.
The majority of the deaths, which ranged from ages 19 to 55, resulted from the use of methadone, which is used medically as a painkiller, and opiods, which also provide pain relieving effects, as well as other synthetic narcotics.
A survey was conducted by health officials at Mount Airy Middle School to measure how many students, grades six to eight, use both medical and nonmedical drugs to get the high.
Results from a Pride Surveys Report indicated that less than 1 percent of the students have used ecstasy and OxyCotin in the past year. About 4 percent reported using Ritalin, Adderall or Xanax at least once or twice in their life without a doctor’s prescription, while 1.4 percent reported having used it 40 times or more in their life.
A little more than 2 percent reported taking over-the-counter drugs to get high at least once or twice in their life, while less than 1 percent reported doing it 20 to 40 times.
Of the students surveyed, 98.6 percent reported that they had not used over-the-counter drugs to get high in the last 30 days.
It was also mentioned that the results of the survey were inconclusive due to lack of response and a small number of participants.
Jaime Edwards, who is heading the coalition, said that although the numbers were rather low for drug use with middle school students, it’s a problem that is more prevalent with high school students, which is why the group is seeking to develop a survey for high school students and the community to gauge their use.
“We are looking for a direct respondent survey for them to complete in four minutes or less for a low cost,” he said. “We want to develop more intrinsic questions to include on the survey and preferably get it out in the community in about a month or half.”
The survey would gauge actual use and social perception of use, he added.
Once the data is collected, Edwards said the group would want to present it to the community to tackle the issue with awareness and education.
The survey would most likely be both online and paper survey.
The fruition of this survey is part of an ongoing effort of research, forming a coalition with key members and implementing a program which will take 12 to 24 months.
The coalition is also looking for help from community members to help promote and execute its efforts. Those interested can call Frank Nichols at 710-2921.
For more information, visit www.surrysig.org.
Contact Erin C. Perkins at email@example.com or 719-1952.