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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Ditch the Drugs

At one point or another, we’ve all used prescription drugs or over-the- counter (OTC) medicines to alleviate an illness – whether it’s to relieve pain or curb a cough. Unfortunately, too many young people and adults are abusing these drugs for a quick high. In response to our country’s medicine abuse epidemic, the Hillsborough County Anti Drug Alliance (HCADA) is proactively discussing this issue all month long both to the media and on social media.

Nationally, prescription drugs are the second most abused category of drugs after marijuana, with one in five young adults reporting that they have abused a prescription drug. In addition, the 2011 Monitoring the Future Survey found that 5 percent of teens have abused over-the-counter cough medicines containing the active ingredient dextromethorphan to get high over the past year.

When abused in extreme excess—sometimes as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose— dextromethorphan can produce dangerous side effects, especially when combined with alcohol, illicit drugs, or certain prescription drugs.

Locally, one in 12 surveyed high school students and one in 28 surveyed middle school students report abusing prescription pain killers. Regarding over-the-counter medicines, one in 17 surveyed high school students and one in 24 surveyed middle school students report abuse.

“Our coalition has been working tirelessly to reduce, and prevent medicine abuse by teens and adults through education, community engagement, and local policy changes,” says Cindy Grant, Executive Director of HCADA. “By talking with parents, educators, health professionals and other concerned citizens we hope we can prevent further tragedies involving prescription drugs or over-the-counter medicines.”

The discussion and social media campaign is part of National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, observed annually in October and will take place locally from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 27 at the Town & Country Public Library, Community Rooms A & B located at 7606 Paula Drive, #120, Tampa, FL 33615.

There will be a special Showcase performance by Prodigy Students followed by community conversation. Prodigy is a research-based prevention and diversion program, free for at-risk youth ages 10 to 17, which uses visual and performing arts as a way to reach over 3,000 youth (annually). Prodigy is funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

“Prodigy uses an innovative approach to empower, educate, and enable youth to provide a doorway to a better tomorrow away from crime and gangs,” says Cindy Grant, director of HCADA. “Thanks to the programming, we are able to reach a demographic that we have not ever been able to before; introducing young people to various visual and performing arts while at the same time, providing them with essential life skills too.”

The Showcase promotes a successful fall 2015 partnership between the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program’s new mobile initiative (Prodigy Moves!) and youth programming at HCADA. Youth performances reflect the anti-drug educational efforts of HCADA, the cultivation of life skills through Prodigy classes, and community cultural engagement in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

The national campaign, sponsored by Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA) and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), aims to educate parents and youth of the potential dangers associated with prescription and OTC medicine abuse.

Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) has been in existence, active in the community and support of law enforcement, the court system, prevention agencies, and substance abuse treatment providers since its inception in 1989. In 2003, HCADA restructured as a 501(c)(3) to apply for grant funding. Subsequently, HCADA expanded its community based alcohol, tobacco and substance abuse education and prevention activities. As well as participation in the development of related planning strategies, state-wide in scope, for the betterment of the Hillsborough County community. HCADA offers open membership and participation to all interested individuals and continues to provide a public forum for sharing information and new ideas.

The Prodigy Cultural Arts Program is a program of the University Area Community Development Corporation, Inc., and funded by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. Launched in 2000, Prodigy engages over 3000 youth each year through a seven-county network of community organizations. Prodigy is a research proven, community cultural arts program where life skills like communication, problem solving and conflict resolution skills are infused into visual and performing arts classes.

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