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Health Matters Tackles Topic of Illegal Drugs

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Categories: Emergency Pediatrics
Health Matters tackles topic of illegal drugs

Health Matters with Doylestown Health opened its third season with a straightforward look at illegal drug use. Hosts Ashley Heidler, Pediatric Outreach manager with Doylestown Health, and Joe Johnson, CB South High School junior, led the discussion.

Drug abuse is a reality in every community in the United States, including ours. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) nearly quadrupled. Deaths from drug overdose are an epidemic in today's society.

Expert guests on this episode of Health Matters include Brenda Foley, MD, Assistant Medical Director of the Doylestown Hospital Emergency Department; Ginny Barrett, coordinator of Guidance Services for CB South High School, and David Fialko, a certified Prevention Specialist with The Council of Southeast Pennsylvania.

The show starts out with a look at why drugs are addictive and why they are difficult to quit. Dr. Foley talks about changes that occur in the brain after repeated use of drugs.

"Addiction is a brain disease, said Dr. Foley. "It's well beyond just willpower and trying to resist the temptation. We know there are actual changes in our chemistry."

Illegal Drug Use in Our Community

Health Matters: Illegal Drug Use in Our Community from Central Bucks School District on Vimeo.

The topic leads into a discussion about marijuana and its effects on the user, including difficulty learning new things and loss of memory. Ginny Barrett has seen this in some students and calls it "arrested development, when a 17-year-old behaves like a 13-year-old.

The panel suggests red flags that point to abuse of drugs. They also talk about the movement from prescription medication use to heroin. Many heroin users start out by using prescription narcotics, notes Dr. Foley.

"The availability of heroin is shocking to me," said Ms. Barrett. "Years ago that wouldn't be the case."

The show includes information about getting help for students and parents, what Doylestown Health is doing to address the opioid crisis and why some students with mental health issues "self-medicate" with illegal drugs.

Health Matters also offers guidance on how to properly and safely dispose of unused prescription painkillers to keep them off the street.

About Pediatric Services

Doylestown Health is committed to providing family-centered children's services to Bucks and Montgomery County communities.  The Carol and Louis Della Penna Pediatric Center offers expert inpatient care to all ages including infants, children and teens. Della Penna Pediatric Center Services extend beyond the hospital setting to include health and wellness education, nutrition services and other support services.

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