With the opioid crisis claiming tens of thousands of lives in the U.S. last year, a local school district wants to make sure students understand how to safely use prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Professor Matthew Zak of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy at St. John Fisher College spent last week talking to junior and senior high school students in East Rochester.
"If they're not using heroin or opioids, they are definitely exposed to heroin and opioids and they know people who are partaking in this," he said.
Zak said students have a lot of misconceptions about drugs. "A lot of them don't even know that Motrin and Advil are the same medication, so they can't really appreciate that they shouldn't be taking both at the same time because they do the same exact thing and if you take too much there can be some severe side effects. Just because a drug is over the counter, doesn't make it safe."
When he visited 8th and 12th grade health classes, Zak discussed the differences between a prescription opioid and a Schedule 1 controlled substance like heroin or marijuana that has a high potential for abuse.
He said many students incorrectly believe that you can't overdose on marijuana.
"Nowadays, with our ability to genetically enhance plants with different amounts of CBD and THC in them, it's very easy to overdose on drugs like marijuana."
Zak's goal is to educate students in every school district throughout the Rochester area. He said the information that drug experts like pharmacists have is a valuable addition to health class curriculum.