ELMSFORD, N.Y. — Last year, 13,000 calls were made to the New York State Poison Control, with more than half of the calls for people under age 19.
Awareness is the first step to lowering that number, says BOCES Coordinator of School Safety Isabel Burk, which is why she will lead a workshop on Friday for local school districts titled "Spice, Oxy, Percs and Beyond: Today's Youth Drug Trends."
"Many of these schools don't have the time or capacity to keep up on this stuff," Burk said, an award-winning expert on drug prevention, safety and health. "I feel they need to know what students might be interested in.
Burk's presentation will include up-to-date information about emerging drug trends among the country's middle and high schools. The program is sponsored by the SWBOCES Center for Professional Development and Curriculum and will take place at 2 Westchester Plaza in Elmsford from 9 a.m. to noon.
A national speaker on the topic, Burk has been honored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has written two books and has appeared as a health expert on 20/20, CBS This Morning, the View and FOX News, among others.
Though Burk, a Rockland resident who works in Elmford, has addressed the issue all over the country, the drug situation in schools are never different, she said.
"There's no place in this country where it's not a problem," she said. "There are always going to be young people who are curious and have no idea what they're getting into until it's too late."
One of today's major drug trends among teens is the shift from street drugs to prescription and over-the-counter medicines, Burk said. Ironically, drug prevention speakers like herself could be to blame, she said — students think that if a drug is legal, it's safe to take.
"We've done such a good job on getting the message across, never realizing that might drive students to seek out other kinds of drugs that might be purer and safer," she said.
Teachers and parents may also not be aware of the "non-drug" drugs, as Burk calls them, which are legal to buy and can be found in head shops. Spice and K are sold as incense, and many adults think that bath salts are actually bath salts, not a drug, she said.
So far, schools from New Rochelle and Rockland County have registered representatives for the workshop. To register your school, contact Colette Connolly at 914-592-4203, ext. 3418.