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Chestatee High students help teach parents about drug safety
Lyman Hall Elementary parents bring in their unused or expired medicine for safe disposal Wednesday in Gainesville during the “Prescription Medicine Roundup.”

Too often, children consume prescription medication they’ve confused for candy.

Three students at Chestatee High School want to help change that.

Chestatee seniors Abigail Vilchis, Beatriz Martinez and Rosa Holguin hosted a prescription medication roundup Wednesday at Lyman Hall Elementary School in Gainesville.

“What we decided to do is give a meeting about a month ago, explaining what we were doing,” Martinez said. “Now we’ve returned for the parents to drop off medications that have expired or that they don’t use anymore.”

Martinez said flushing medications is an unsafe water practice. Instead, they encourage people to drop off their unused or unneeded prescription medications at the Gainesville Police Department or the Hall County Sheriff’s Office. The medications will be safely recycled and can no longer do harm in the home.

Holguin said the project is for a Health Occupations Students of America competition this March in Athens.

“We’re doing a competition for HOSA that is about community awareness,” she said. “We decided we’d do it about prescription abuse, and we’ve included information about little kids confusing candy for medication and how they can consume any item left unattended.”

The students had a diagram for parents, showing which candies look similar to which medications.

As an incentive for bringing in medication, the students gave parents lockboxes to keep future medications in safely. More than 25 parents came to Lyman Hall for the roundup and a presentation the students organized with Deputy AnMarie Martin of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations.

Martin gave the presentation in Spanish, to accommodate the large number of Spanish-speaking parents in attendance.

She reminded parents that drugs aren’t just illegal substances, but any substance that changes the functions of the body.

She also warned parents to be wary of how advertising today can glamorize drugs. Alcohol is a drug, she said, and commercials, like the Budweiser Super Bowl puppy advertisement, can desensitize children to the potential harms of drinking alcohol.

The students will compete in the statewide HOSA competition March 12-14 in Athens. They have prepared a portfolio explaining the work they’ve done and they will give a presentation to three judges about it.

“We have to summarize everything in six minutes with pictures and proof that we have done something for the community,” Martinez said.

Holguin encouraged parents who couldn’t make it to the roundup to continue to drop off their medications with law enforcement and to keep their necessary medications safely stored in the home, out of reach of children.

“You can drop them off any time,” Holguin said. “It’s anonymous; nobody is going to ask you any questions. There’s a drop-off box, and you just leave them there.”

She said the students got the idea for the project from a classmate who is an intern at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. They soon learned how many homes are affected by improper safety when it comes to prescription or over-the-counter medications.

“It’s one of those things that not many people pay much attention to today,” she said. “It’s so common for people to confuse them or be careless with them.”

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