MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, prescription drug abuse and its consequences are the fastest growing drug problem in America. To help combat that trend, three second-year students in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy have introduced a new patient care project called GenerationRx.
Developed by the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and conducted in partnership with the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), GenerationRx is a nationwide program that aims to educate communities about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
WVU pharmacy students Kayla Hetrick of Fort Hill, Pa., Kimberly Kimble of Middlebourne, W.Va., and JoeMichael Fusco of Clarksburg, W.Va., learned about the program while attending the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) Mid-year Regional Meeting last fall and felt it was important to implement the project in schools and community groups across the Mountain State.
“One of the statistics that we tell people is that in 2001, there were 91 drug-related deaths in the state of West Virginia,” Fusco said.
“That number went up to 390 in 2008,” Hetrick added. “Actually putting numbers on it and showing people that it’s a growing problem are impactful.”
Fusco and Hetrick are co-committee chairs of the WVU chapter’s initiative and they, along with fellow student pharmacists and ASP members, plan to take the program into middle schools, high schools, parent meetings, church meetings and even nursing homes.
“Teenagers need to be taught that prescription drug abuse is illegal and that the side effects from them are serious and can be deadly,” Kimble said. “Parents and grandparents need to be taught how to properly store their medications and to recognize the signs that their children or grandchildren are abusing prescription drugs.”
Kimble had an opportunity to present the GenerationRx program to high school students in West Virginia. The reaction she got from the students was eye opening.
“While at the high school, I had students who told me they knew people who were abusing prescription medication,” she said. “I was not expecting the students to open up to me. It just hit home how much of a problem prescription drug abuse is in this area.”
Fusco, Hetrick and Kimble feel it is important to educate everyone in the community — from adolescents to older adults — in order to prevent anyone from even starting to abuse prescription drugs and to also help guide people who are struggling with addiction.
“As future pharmacists, we need to realize and make other healthcare professionals and the community at large aware that prescription drug abuse is a huge problem, and I think education is the best way to help stop it from happening,” Hetrick said.
“[Pharmacists] are the only people in healthcare who are specifically trained in prescription medication,” Fusco added. “Being specialists and being the people who in the future will be dispensing these medications, it is our responsibility to let people know the risks that they are taking.”
(l-r) WVU pharmacy students JoeMichael Fusco, Kimberly Kimble and Kayla Hetrick.