The recreational use of prescription pain relievers, stimulants and sedatives has become one of the most prevalent forms of drug abuse among youth in the United States (World Drugs Report, 2012). This is driven primarily by an increased availability of prescription drugs. Between 1991 and 2010 prescriptions for opioids increased by 134 million (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2011). The U.S. population has only grown by 65 million in the same amount of time, meaning for each person born two opioid scripts were administered.
There is a misconception that prescription medication is safe to take because a doctor has prescribed it. This can be partially attributed to the decrease in perceived harmfulness of narcotics, which has decreased 2 percent from 2010 to 2012 (Klisch, Bowling, Miller & Ramos, 2013). Researchers in the prevention field have been exploring different ways to ensure adolescents know the risks of recreational prescription drug abuse.
Incorporating computer games and e-learning teaching methods have become popular in U.S. classrooms, as they increase engagement and reflect the learning style of a more digitally savvy generation (Klisch, Bowling, Miller, & Ramos, 2013). In a study conducted by Klisch and colleagues, 179 students played educational games teaching them about prescription drugs and prescription drug abuse. Increased awareness of the dangers associated with prescription drugs was found among students who played these computer games. A game-based e-learning program developed by Children’s Health Education Center was also associated with decreased alcohol, tobacco and other drug use as well as a decrease in misconceptions about the risks of substance abuse (Schweizer, Hayseltt, Bansal, Ronco & Schafer, 2014).
National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA), an internationally renowned leader in the prevention field, is currently creating new e-learning modules on prescription drug abuse for adolescents. Based on Botvin LifeSkills Training (LST), the goal of this program is to bring attention to the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse while teaching students skills to refuse them. This adaptation will educate youth on healthy behavioral practices as well as help to deter them from engaging in dangerous health behaviors.
Sources: World Health Organization, (2012) World Drugs Report. New York: United Nations Offices on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC).
U.S Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1991 (111th edition). Washington, DC.
Klisch, Y., Bowling, K. G., Miller, L. M., & Ramos, M. A. (2013). The impact of science education games on prescription drug abuse attitudes among teens: A case study. Journal of Drug Education, 43(3), 255-275.
Schweizer, H., Hayslett, C., Bansal, N., Ronco, S., & Schafer, R. (2014). Effective alcohol, tobacco and other drug intervention and prevention using online game-based, e-learning: an evidence-informed program that works.International journal on e-learning, 13(3), 335-373.
Contributing Writer: Anthony Montemarano is pursuing both a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Master of Arts in Industrial/Organization Psychology at Iona College.