Teen drug use and death: CBS 17 Investigates a growing epidemic

Investigators

The number of teens and young adults dying from drug overdoses is on the rise.

It’s often a problem that can start in high school.

CBS 17 investigative reporter Felicia Bolton found out Wake County Public Schools has the highest number of students reported for possession of a controlled substance.

Former Leesville Road High School student Bryce Hoover is not your typical young man.

He’s working hard to make better choices after enduring tragic losses.

“We mostly started experimenting with like pills and, like 9th grade, kind of before much other people did,” said Hoover.

Within the span of four years, he has lost several friends from drug overdoses.

“Jordan Mower, he’s another good friend of me and Caleb’s. He actually passed away three weeks after Caleb, ” said Hoover.

Hoover met Caleb Melhman in the second grade.

Melhman’s family says Caleb and another friend both died of drug overdoses while celebrating Caleb’s 19th birthday last December.

“He was celebrating his birthday. He decided to take Xanax – a good amount of Xanax on top of drinking, on top of methadone — was the other drug that was found,” said Susan Plattner, Melhman’s mother.

Plattner says her son’s drug problem started while at school and they tried to get him help.

But the family believes more should be done in the classroom to educate teens on the dangers of prescription pills.

“I think it needs to be recognized. I think a lot of these administrative people. They know there’s an issue but they won’t recognize it, recognize there is an issue at this point,” said Caleb’s’ sister Sarah Mehlman.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Wake County Public Schools has the highest number of students reported for possession of a controlled substance. The district reported nearly 500 for the 2016-17 school year.

A further breakdown of the numbers:

  • Garner High School: 46
  • Enloe: 34
  • Leesville: 29

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Training Manager Mike Anderson travels across the state teaching faculty and staff on how to stop crime and drugs in schools.

Anderson says stopping drugs in school is very difficult to do.

“That’s a huge question and that’s an age old question. As a former school resource officer it’s really really tough to stay ahead of that sort of trend, ” said Training Manager DPI Mike Anderson.

He says community involvement is key.

“With drugs, it runs the gamut from alcohol to marijuana to opioids use, which is pretty high,” said Anderson. “Once those community partners start coming into the schools to kind of spread the resource and get some of these kids the mental health that they need. That’s when we can start combating a lot of the drug issues.”

It’s a call to action, this grieving mother says she will take.

“It’s so senseless but we have to make some sense out of it,” said Plattner.

Wake County Public Schools is the largest district in the state. So having the largest number of possession cases is not out of the ordinary.

A spokesperson for the district says parents should reach out to the school if they have any concerns about a student.

They released this statement:

“Along with the support and education provided to students to help them make good decisions, Leesville road high school has met with parents to provide them with information and resources so they can best support their children. “

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction, call 1-877-364-2244 .

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