Public Schools Screen for Substance Abuse


A number of states across the country have seen a dramatic rise in overdose deaths related to prescription opioids or heroin. Naturally, as the affected states work to combat this crisis there is a lot of concern about teenage substance abuse. In Massachusetts, a state which saw more than 1,000 overdose deaths last year, child advocates are calling for substance abuse screening in public schools, WBUR reports. Screenings could help school nurses identify the students who may be in need of help before a problem gets even more out of hand.

School nurses already screen for hearing and vision problems, why not add substance abuse screening to the list? Currently, eight schools in MA have already started screening, with seven more districts expected to follow this fall, according to the article.

“Similar to the way they do hearing and eye tests, all with the goal that this is a normal process where kids are brought into their nursing offices and given a screening,” said Mary McGeown, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

Identifying a problem early on could potentially save the lives of teens who might look to opioids for their next high. Many teens are unaware just how addictive and life threatening these types of drugs can be.

“In about 10 percent of the cases there is brief counseling, that the individual reports that they have used alcohol or have used marijuana,” said McGeown.

“In a very, very small percentage of those 10 percent, really 1 or 2 percent, there’s a referral to treatment,” she added. “And it’s at that point that a parent would be called.” Lawmakers are meeting today to discuss a bill that would take the program statewide.


If you are currently struggling with opioids and are need of help, please do not hesitate to contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.