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Drug epidemic impacting middle and high school students in Tampa Bay area

Drug counselor full time at Sarasota High School
Posted at 4:52 PM, Apr 13, 2017

Brian Ryals isn't your typical guidance counselor at Sarasota High School. He's at the school five days a week, but he's also a counselor at the drug recovery center First Step.

"I can deal with student substance abuse issues right then and now to get them addressed quickly," said Ryals.

He said the student's trust him, because he's a counselor and a football coach.

"They come to me with their problems from drug abuse to relationships," said Ryals.

He said students as young as fourteen years old are using opioids. County leaders are making the epidemic a major issue. Sheriff Tom Knight said there were seventy-one overdoses in Sarasota County this year.

"It's starting at an earlier age than high school, its more of I want to give it a try to see what this is like," said Ryals.

Ryals is the first drug counselor in the Sarasota County schools, but he believes more schools will take notice of the success he's had at Sarasota High School.

"Let's all be aware and let's get together as a community," said Ryals.