CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Prescription drugs can be deadly if they fall into the wrong hands. Heartland News has learned in many cases those hands now belong to children.
Students report they easily take them from their parents cabinets, or get them from their friends.
"From students we've talked with, we're learning this is starting around 7th grade," said Jamie Litteken. Litteken is with the Youth Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition. She is working directly with focus groups of Heartland students ages 12 to 20 to learn more about where they're getting prescription drugs.
"The wide spread acceptance really shocked me," said Litteken. "Students don't understand it can hurt them and it's wrong. Even if the pills aren't prescribed for them, they think because they come from a doctor they must be ok."
She says most of the time, the trail starts in their parents medicine cabinet.
"A lot of times, parents don't realize how easy it is for the kids to access the drugs," said Litteken.
From there they make their way to school.
"There's a lot of trading off in school with in classes," said Litteken. "Some students buy them."
For some students, Litteken says she learned the pills are easy money, for others they are an easy high. She says most students report seeking Xanex or Adderall.
"Luckily for us it really has not been an issue," said Cape Central Junior High School Assistant Principal, Alan Bruns. Bruns says he's only had to deal with one case in six years regarding a student passing out his own Ritilin to other students.
However, other principals report wide spread use and a growing concern. The problem is reported to be worse in high schools.
"I talk with administrators from around the state and a lot of them deal with it pretty often," said Bruns.
Bruns says in his school aggressive policies help. They require all students to leave their over-the-counter and prescription medications in the hands of the nurse and go straight to law enforcement with issues.
"Education for parents is the best thing," said Junior High School Student Resource Office, Dan Seger.
Seger says, that they do all they can to make sure students and parents know passing off pills isn't just illegal, you could lose your life.
"They could be responsible for another child's death," said Seger.
All agree education awareness and proper disposal of unused or expired prescription drugs is the best way to stop the problem.
If you have prescription drugs in your house that you don't know what to do with, some law enforcement officials in the Heartland have a suggestion: This weekend is national prescription drug take-back day.
Several Heartland departments are participating in the event. You can drop off old or expired prescriptions drugs in a variety of locations.
To find a site near you and more information, go to www.dea.gov.