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Default 11-02-2007, 06:30 AM

Agency will expand drug fight
Additional details about the program and more from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics.

The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs plans to add 120 drug prevention counselors and volunteers to combat continued drug use among young people, the agency's director said during a press conference Thursday.

Through a partnership with AmeriCorps, the bureau plans to hire 20 substance abuse counselors and as many as 100 volunteers and place them in strategic locations around the state, said agency director Darrell Weaver.

A $125,000 federal grant and $100,000 in drug seizure money will fund the force, he said.

The program will recruit junior- or senior-level education or criminal justice graduate students, who will receive a salary of about $500 per month and a $2,300 annual stipend for education expense after completing 900 hours of service. Weaver said retired educators and police also are encouraged to participate in the program.

More teens are trying drugs
Recent statistics on teen drug use show Oklahoma is failing to get the message across when it comes to warning high school students about the dangers of drugs, Weaver said.
More than 40 percent of Oklahoma high school students surveyed in 2003 and 2004 said they had tried marijuana, and about 12 percent had tried cocaine, methamphetamine or inhalants, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

About two out of every three high school students say they have never received a drug education course in school or at home, Weaver said. His agency provides more than 200 programs in schools annually but is able to reach only about 10 percent of their target audience, Weaver said.

Weaver said the number of youths abusing prescription drugs has risen to 14 percent, and the agency has seen an alarming trend in abuse of over-the-counter drugs such as dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant.

He said marijuana use may present the biggest challenge in preventing teen drug use. Nearly half of Oklahoma's high school seniors said they didn't think marijuana was harmful in a recent poll and 67 percent of new marijuana users in Oklahoma are under 18.
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