By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Reporter
(March 2,2023) Worcester County Public Schools and Worcester Goes Purple hosted a week-long series of health events featuring the MEGA Brain and MEGA Lungs at area schools to raise awareness among county middle and high school students about substance abuse.
The inflatable MEGA brain and MEGA lungs provide students and staff the opportunity to see how drugs, alcohol, tobacco and vaping affect the brain and lungs.
“We know that vaping and substance abuse is a huge problem in our community. Vaping is very common, it’s a problem. Students are not allowed to vape on school property, but they are definitely doing it off school property,” said Michelle Fluty, Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) advisor and health and PE teacher at Stephen Decatur High School. “Hopefully this will motivate those using substances to quit.”
She also hopes that those who are not using will choose to stay away from vaping and other substance abuse once they understand the dangers.
Fluty said substance abuse is a topic the students at the high school are learning about in health class and those taking psychology are learning about the brain.
“We hope kids will talk to their parents and bring them back tonight to see the exhibit,” said Debbie Smullen, Worcester Goes Purple event coordinator.
According to the 2018 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 47.6 percent of students in the 12th grade have used electronic vapor products and 29.5 percent are currently using. A total of 7.4 percent use daily.
The study also looked at middle school students and found that 12.5 percent of sixth graders had used an electronic vapor product, with 2.4 percent saying they currently use.
“Vaping is more dangerous than smoking cigarettes. It’s not just vapor, with vaping, oil goes into your lungs,” said Smullen.
“Some parents think of vaping as a lesser of two evils, but it is not,” added Tamara Mills, coordinator of instruction for Worcester County Public Schools.
The study also found that 43 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana, with nearly 25 percent saying they currently use one or more times during the past 30 days.
Only 2.4 percent of sixth graders said they had tried marijuana.
Nearly 15 percent of 12th graders surveyed said they had taken prescription pain medication without a doctor’s prescription. For sixth graders, that number was 6 percent.
Nearly 24 percent of 12th graders had been offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property. New survey data will be available in about a month, according to Mills.
After the presentations, Fluty talked to some of her classes to determine how impactful the event was for them. “The students thought it was relatable, the stories the paramedics shared were relatable. They shared stories about teenagers who had overdosed on painkillers. The speakers really talked to them and with them and not at them,” she said. “They said they learned some new things about the effects of vaping and things they had not heard before.”
The Mega Brain and Mega Lungs was also displayed at Snow Hill Middle School, Snow Hill High School, Pocomoke Middle School and on Friday, will be at Pocomoke High School.
Funding for the display was provided by Worcester Goes Purple with a grant from the Maryland Operation Opioid Command Center.