HUDSON, Ohio — Teen addiction continues to plague communities across the nation. Not only are we continuing to see children becoming hooked on drugs, but the effects are proving to be deadly.
According to the American Medical Association, nearly 1,200 children between the ages of 14 and 18 overdosed on drugs in 2021. That's nearly 200 more than what we saw in 2020.
That's why one organization created right here in Ohio is giving local students a chance to stay clean while being rewarded in the process.
On Wednesday morning, students will line up at Hudson High School for voluntary drug testing. It all gets underway at 8:30 a.m.
Participating students will get 10% off at local businesses in the Hudson area. They will also be entered to win some gift cards.
Addiction a major concern in homes across America.
"It's more difficult now, I think, than ever before for kids to now be exposed to it at some point," said Michael Miller, Principal at Hudson High School.
The looming danger of drugs floats through the hallways of high schools across the country.
"This is not a problem in specific schools. This has happened at every high school in America," said Miller.
There's a national organization helping keep students on the right track.
Drug Free Clubs of America was founded by a team of firefighters in Cincinnati back in 2005.
After facing tragedy after tragedy, they decided they had a chance to be proactive.
"It seemed like so much time and energy and effort went into bringing people back from addiction, and [we] thought, there's got to be a better way," said Angie Ferguson, Executive Director of Drug Free Clubs of America.
Their goal is simple: give students a reason to remain drug-free. The five-step strategy includes parent support.
"Some parents have no issues talking with their students about drug use and things like that. Some other parents may have some, you know — they might not feel as comfortable. So, this is a way for them to bring that conversation to the table," said Miller.
Confidential drug testing is another part of it.
"They can get the student the support they need without the student feeling they're going to get in trouble here at school," said Miller.
Another key pillar is student leadership.
"All the adults were kind of in charge. And then we're like, what are we doing? These teens have to affect themselves if this is truly going to be relevant and if it's actually going to change anything, it has to be led by the student body," said Ferguson.
At Hudson High School, students have taken pride in helping out their peers — especially those who have a firsthand experience with teen drug use.
"I lost my cousin to a drug overdose many years ago. She was young, 25. And none of us saw it coming," said Kristine Roegner, a Hudson High School junior.
Kristine is carrying on a family legacy.
Back in 2017, her big sister helped establish the Drug Free Club chapter at Hudson.
Now, after the pandemic made them shut down operations, she hopes to revive the group and get more students involved.
One of the ways they're increasing involvement is by using positive reinforcement.
"When we first started, we're thinking, it's going to be something huge. It's going to be cars and iPads and concerts and this kind of stuff. And they're like, we want to go to the front of the lunch line. We want to get out of class 5 minutes early," said Ferguson.
It's all done with the goal of reaching every teen they can to make a difference.
"I'm just determined to do what I can to prevent this from happening to others," said Roegner.
In 2019, Hudson High School had one of the largest Drug Free Club chapters in the country with more than 800 students.
That's about half the student body.
Now, they're hoping to get membership back up to pre-pandemic levels.