Free drug testing kits are available at seven locations in Letcher County to help parents discourage children from experimenting with drugs.
“Just the threat of having the child come home and the parent test them might be enough to give him a second thought when he is facing that pressure to use drugs,” said Dale Morton, communications director with Operation UNITE (Unlawful Narcotics Investigations, Treatment and Education).
The “Give Me A Reason” program, which is a collaboration of Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) and Operation UNITE, is designed to give preteens and teenagers a reason to say no when peers are doing drugs.
Said Morton: “A kid goes to school. A classmate has pills, pot. (The kid) says I can’t do it because my parents drug test me.”
Fifty percent of 12th graders say they have used drugs at least once in their lifetime, said Morton.
“Teens who stay away from drugs in high school are less likely to develop a substance abuse problem later in life,” said Morton. “That’s a known fact. Middle schoolers and high schoolers, of course, are the most vulnerable.”
Morton said 11.4 percent of people ages 12–25 use prescription drugs illegally.
“Marijuana always leads the way,” said Morton. “After marijuana, prescription and over-thecounter medications count for most of the top drugs abused by our kids. We hear about heroin. We hear about crystal meth. Pills are still king in this region.”
Dan Smoot, director of prevention and education for AHIDTA, said a single dose of a drug can affect a person’s judgment and decision making.
“The drugs are getting stronger and stronger,” said Smoot, former president and chief executive officer of Operation UNITE. “One time use does lead to addiction.”
The saliva-based drug testing kits can detect amphetamines (including the psychedelic drug ecstasy), barbiturates (tranquilizers), benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium), cocaine, methamphetamine, methadone, opiates (including heroin, oxycodone and hydrocodone), phencyclidine (PCP) and marijuana.
“Every one of these can be found in our area,” said Morton.
The kits are not tracked by Operation UNITE, Smoot said. Those who use the kits are asked to mail in an anonymous questionnaire asking if the test was positive or negative and if the test was positive, what drug was found to be in the child’s system.
“One of the most major things to note about this program is that there is no law enforcement involvement whatsoever,” said Smoot. “It is voluntary for parents. It is a logical and simple way to hold their kids accountable. For teens it gives them a reason to say no.”
Smoot said the drug testing kit also provides parents with an opportunity to talk to their children about drugs.
Frank Rapier, executive director of AHIDTA, created the “Give Me A Reason” program to prevent youth from experimenting with drugs and to get help for those who already use drugs.
The program was launched in Rockcastle County in October. Kits are also available in Knott, Pike and Laurel counties. The long-term goal is to have kits available in all counties in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia that are in the service area of Operation UNITE and AHIDTA. The Letcher County Chapter of the United Substance Abuse Prevention (USAP) Council has charge of the distribution sites in Letcher.
The new drug prevention initiative is funded by Appalachia High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AHIDTA) and marketed by Operation UNITE.
Free drug testing kits are available at the following locations:
• Arlie Boggs Elementary School Resource Center, 633-4654
• Cowan Elementary School Resource Center, 633-7195
• Fleming-Neon Middle School Resource Center, 855-7864
• Jenkins High School Resource Center, 832-0009
• Letcher County Central High School Resource Center, 633-2339
• Letcher Middle School, 633- 7812
• Whitesburg Middle School, 633-2761