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Will Connell is a recovering heroin addict and a lead presenter with Know the Truth, a Twin Cities based substance abuse prevention program. He and several other recovering addicts shared their personal stories with students at Hudson High School and Hudson Middle School last spring.

Hudson students and drugs: the good news and the bad

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news River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Like most communities, Hudson young people are at risk of using and abusing drugs but they also may be more likely to avoid those risks with parental and community support.

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Last March the Hudson School District brought “Know the Truth,” a Twin Cities substance abuse and prevention program, to talk with students at Hudson Middle School and Hudson High School. The KTT presenters, most recovering addicts themselves, spoke to sixth grade health classes at Hudson Middle School and 15- to 17-year-olds in health classes at Hudson High School. They also addressed the entire freshman class.

Will Connell, a recovering heroin addict and a lead presenter for the group, was in Hudson last week to share the results of a survey some of those students completed following the week of presentations. He spoke at the Hudson Community Foundation’s follow-up to last year’s forum “Heroin in Hudson.”

Students in the health classes completed surveys after the KTT presentations. Many of the presenters had either been through or were currently enrolled in long-term treatment with Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge which partners with KTT.

Connell reported that of the 195 high school students who completed the survey, 30 percent said they have used illegal drugs; of the 321 sixth-graders who responded, only 6 percent said they have used illegal drugs. Those numbers include the use of prescription drugs not specifically prescribed for the student.

Of those students who did indicate they have used drugs, the survey measured their use of specific substances. Included among those substances are marijuana, prescription pills and alcohol. Marijuana is the most commonly used drug among both the high school and middle school students surveyed.

Connell said the more disturbing information among the students who use was the 47 percent of middle school students who admitted to using prescription drugs. Prescription pills are used by 39 percent of high school students who use drugs. He said the number of middle school students using pills averages around 30 percent in other schools they have surveyed.

When asked why pill use might be higher in Hudson, Connell said accessibility is a big issue when it comes to the opiate painkillers students and adults abuse, and their age, 13 and 14, is also a factor.

“These drugs are in their homes, in their medicine cabinets. They see mom and dad use them, see that they are prescribed by a doctor and that can give them a sense of them being safe to use. They simply are too young to know about the danger they present and how quickly addiction can happen. They just aren’t educated about them or addiction. That combined with a lot of misinformation out there and the availability of them, makes it an easier first step.”

On the positive side, Connell said his team was impressed by how they were received by students in both Hudson schools and how open they were to the message. The survey also noted that the two most prominent things that keep students from using are legal consequences, 81 percent, and parental disapproval, 77 percent.

“Parents are still the biggest influence on kids and that is why it is so important for parents to keep talking to their kids about this, be careful about those prescription drugs and just keep communication flowing.”

Connell said he was impressed with all the presenters at the recent follow-up forum and the steps that have been taken to address the drug problem in the community. He believes Hudson is ahead of a lot of communities in that regard including his hometown of Hastings, Minn.

“Your community has decided to be open about it and start taking steps to address it. You had the school, the police, the local doctors, the politicians, all here talking about it, doing things and keeping people informed. It takes time but you will see things change as long as the community stays involved and engaged.”

Know the Truth makes presentations like the ones in Hudson at around 150 secondary schools around Minnesota and western Wisconsin, reaching an estimated 50,000 young people every year, free of charge. They are funded by public grants and private donations.

For more information about Know the Truth, go to www.knowthetruth.mntc.org or call (612)238-6190.

For more information about the Hudson School District’s Prevention Coordinator Kelly Hoyos at (715) 377-3711 or email her at hoyoskm@hudson.k12.wi.us. To watch the video of the recent follow-up forum one year after last year’s “Heroin in Hudson: A Community Crisis” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeEGVLOlDL8

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