Northland teen's death sheds light on prescription drug abuse among local youth

LIBERTY, Mo. - After a Northland student's death, new numbers show prescription drug abuse continues to rise.

A recent survey showed an average of 7 percent of Northland students have abused prescription drugs.

"People do it all the time and it's not good," said Riley Richardson, a junior at Liberty High School.

He and fellow student Alex Mclaughlin have seen plenty of people abusing pills. They said it's a cheap high, costing $3 to $5.

The problem seems to be growing, despite the dangerous consequences.

"I don't think they care," Richardson said. "But they should care, after everything that's happened."

A few weeks ago, Liberty High School student Quentin Underhill died of an overdose. Liberty police confirm he used prescription drugs.

"I think that the average person doesn't realize how serious it is," said Vicky Ward, of Tri-County Mental Health Services.

Ward is working to curb what she calls a growing epidemic.

The most common drugs abused are stimulants, which are sometimes used to study, and painkillers to get high. It is a high far too easy to reach.

"We know these are as available as the next medicine cabinet," Ward said.

Whether kids take the drugs from family or sell their own prescriptions, the problem of prescription drug abuse knows no cliques or social barriers.

"Some parents totally don't even know their kids are doing it at all," Richardson said.

Ward says communication is key: Talk to your kids, don't keep your prescriptions in the bathroom.

The best option is to bring old prescriptions to any of the nine prescription drop-offs in the Northland, which are in lobbies of law enforcement agencies like the Liberty police department.

The Northland has the highest concentration of these boxes in the country.

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