ALTON — An Alton High School student is being treated in an area hospital for a possible drug overdose after being found unresponsive on the floor of one of the school’s restrooms Wednesday.
The teen was found unresponsive at around 3:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, according to Capt. Mike T. Dixon of the Madison County Sheriff’s Office. The unnamed student, who is a minor, is being treated in a St. Louis hospital for a undetermined drug, Dixon said. Deputies are treating the incident as a potential narcotics case. Alton Assistant Superintendent Kristie Baumgartner said district officials are unable to comment on the specifics of the incident at this time.
County authorities have made an effort to crack down on drug abuse among teens in recent years, focusing primarily on heroin and prescription drug abuse. Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons has visited schools across the county to educate students on the dangers and consequences of drug abuse, and his office has participated in the national Lock Your Meds prescription drug campaign in recent years.
In January, Gibbons and Madison County Coroner’s Office Chief Investigator Kelly Rogers gave a presentation at Highland High School discussing the legal and health ramifications of drug abuse. At that presentation, Rogers said the number of heroin deaths per year in Madison County has more than tripled in recent years, from seven in 2009 to 22 last year.
Baumgartner said the district is aware of the rising problem in the county but said district administrators haven’t seen any specific cases within Alton schools.
“We’re not aware of any incidents involving heroin to date in our district, although we are keenly aware other Metro East school districts have unfortunately witnessed heroin-related student incidents,” Baumgartner said.
One such incident occurred in the Triad School District, where, in January 2011, Triad High School senior Shannon Gaddis was found dead in her bedroom after receiving a heroin overdose the night before. In 2010, Civic Memorial High School senior Kody Osborne, 18, died at his home from an overdose on the prescription drug venlafaxine. Also in 2010, 18-year-old Amber Morgan, who had dropped out of Granite City High School in 2009, was found dead in her home from a heroin overdose. None of those incidents happened on school grounds, though.
Narcan, a drug used to counteract suspected opioid overdoses, has become increasingly more common in treating heroin overdose cases in recent years. Baumgartner said the school nurses at Alton High School don’t currently have Narcan available in the event of potential overdoses, but she said it’s something the district might consider in the future if the epidemic continues to spread.
“We are constantly reviewing our district policies and procedures to ensure that we are providing our students with a safe and healthy school environment,” Baumgartner said.
Nathan Grimm may be reached at 618-463-2515 and Twitter @GrimmTelegraph.