Associated Press Published: February 20, 2012

Drugs on campus

(For use by New York Times News Service Clients)

c.2012 Houston Chronicle< In recent weeks, teens have covertly handed out addictive prescription drugs on three school campuses that have made scores of students sick in the Houston area.

A fourth campus also recently ended an undercover drug investigation with the arrest of a dozen students who authorities say were mostly peddling prescription drugs.

The recent movement of these abused drugs from so-called pill mills to school hallways has alarmed administrators and law enforcement.

''There's been a huge shift in what we're finding on school campuses compared to what we saw even a few years ago. Prescriptions are the new dope front, because they're cheap and accessible," said Angleton school district Police Chief James Gayle, who ran the undercover operation. "This is not a localized problem. It's a national epidemic."

For four months, Gayle had an undercover agent pose as a student in his Brazoria County school district. This agent, Gayle said, was repeatedly approached to buy controlled substances such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and Ritalin - rather than the usual street drugs like methamphetamines or cocaine.

School administrators are particularly concerned about the prevalence of prescription drugs on school campuses because most drug dogs aren't trained to detect the new menace.

Also, students are lulled into a false belief that prescription drugs won't hurt them, even though authorities say the controlled substances are just as deadly. In recent years, Houston has become a national hot spot for prescription drug abuse with hundreds dying in Harris County from overdoses.

Oxycontin, Haldol

At least 16 students were exposed to a pill that contained a potent combination of Oxycontin (a narcotic pain reliever) and Haldol (an anti-psychotic drug) at Royal High School in Brookshire on Jan. 10. Nine were hospitalized for ailments such as convulsions that can be delayed for several hours after taking the drugs.

''We didn't know one kid had ingested any of this drug until he passed out the next day," said Royal ISD Superitendent Nathaniel Richardson. "He had a very bad reaction. We were afraid he was going to die, but now he's back at school."

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