Prescription Drugs: The Escalation of Use and Abuse

March 28, 2017

“It’s becoming a sadly common story. People get prescribed painkillers. They become addicted and they seek out cheaper and more potent drugs like heroin and synthetic opioids.” –Lulu Garcia Navarro, Family member of an opioid victim, NPR News (2017)

Throughout the United States, prescription drug abuse has become a major public health concern.

rx.jpgIn 2015, research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled. Findings have indicated that the two distinct but interconnected trends that are driving America’s opioid overdose epidemic include:

  • an increase in prescribed opioid drugs
  • a recent surge in illicit opioid overdoses, driven mainly by heroin and illegally-made Fentanyl

The use of highly addictive opioid prescription drugs has repercussions that extend far beyond the individual user. Economic consequences include its impact on work and educational productivity as well as the cost of treatment and incarceration. According to a 2011 study by the American Public Health Association, in 2006, “nonmedical use of prescription painkillers imposed a cost of $53.4 billion on the US economy, including $42 billion in lost productivity, $8.2 billion in increased criminal justice costs, $2.2 billion for drug abuse treatment, and $944 million in medical complications” (AHPA, 2015).

Although a variety of treatments are available for heroin and prescription drug addiction, it is also vital and far more cost effective to help prevent the health risk behaviors related to opioid drug abuse. Botvin LifeSkills Training is an effective skills-based and evidence-based prevention program that can be utilized as a strategic measure to combat the growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse. And now, National Health Promotion Associates, the researchers behind LifeSkills Training, has developed a middle school prescription drug abuse prevention program. The program utilizes both digital and face-to-face intervention modalities to help young adults learn healthy behavioral social and self-regulation skills such as managing stress and anxiety, as well as drug resistance skills. “The combination of drug resistance skills and life skills has been proven to be a powerful formula for preventing drug use and can be carried over throughout their teen years” (Botvin, 2016).

According to research conducted by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP) the use of effective prevention programs like LifeSkills Training have shown to produce a  50-to-1 return, which has been noted as the highest return on investment of any substance abuse prevention curriculum studied.

It has never been a more important time to continue to pressure our legislative representatives, public health agencies, and school administrators to implement programs like LifeSkills Training as a means to help young adults make healthy choices and avoid the damaging effects of prescription drug use and abuse.

Contributing Writer: Madeline Liongson recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies as well as a Minor in Psychology. Her previous volunteer experience includes working with a wide range of students and healthcare professionals from diverse populations in Connecticut, New York and London, UK. Currently Madeline serves as the youngest Youth Board Member for the American Red Cross in the Metro New York Territory and works as a part-time Administrative Assistant at a Speech Language Pathology and Social Development center while she is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Public Health.


As Fewer Teens Are Smoking Cigarettes, More Are Using E-Cigs

June 24, 2016

Fewer U.S. teens are smoking regular cigarettes, but more are using e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year, 11 percent of high school students said they smoked a regular cigarette in the last 30 days, while 24 percent said they used e-cigarettes in the past month. The survey found 45 percent of teens said they had tried an e-cigarette at least once.

Current cigarette use has decreased significantly. In 1991, 28 percent of high school students said they smoked cigarettes. The findings come from the National Youth Risk and Behavior Survey, which included more than 15,000 high school students.

“Current cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, which is great news. However, it’s troubling to see that students are engaging in new risk behaviors, such as using e-cigarettes,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release. “We must continue to invest in programs that help reduce all forms of tobacco use, including e-cigarettes, among youth.”

The survey also found fewer high school students reported illicit use of a prescription drug one or more times. In 2009, 20 percent of teens said they had taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription, compared with 17 percent in 2015.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, 06-23-16 ED’s OSHS PREVENTION NEWS DIGEST-Vol. 12, No. 23

E-cigarette ads reach nearly 7 in 10 middle and high school students

January 11, 2016

About 7 in 10 middle and high school students – more than 18 million young people – see e-cigarette advertising in stores, online, in newspapers and magazines, or on television and in movies, according to a new CDC Vital Signs report.  E-cigarette ads use many of the same themes – independence, rebellion, and sex – used to sell cigarettes. Advertising of tobacco products has been shown to cause young people to start using those products.  E-cigarettes typically deliver nicotine, which at a young age may cause lasting harm to brain development, promote addiction, and lead to sustained tobacco use.


For more information on CDC’s youth tobacco prevention activities, please visit

New Release: CDC 2014 School Health Profile

December 22, 2015

Today, CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) released the 2014 School Health Profiles (Profiles) results on the DASH Healthy Youth website at

 The release includes:

-a comprehensive report that includes results from surveys conducted in:

-48 states

-19 large urban school districts

-2 territories

-a fact sheet describing Profiles and highlighting key 2014 results

-a PowerPoint presentation that presents state results, by quartiles, on a U.S. map

-all questionnaires and item rationales

-information on how to obtain Profiles datasets

-technical documentation for data analysis


Profiles Background: The School Health Profiles (Profiles) is a system of surveys assessing school health policies and practices in states, large urban school districts, and territories. Profiles surveys are conducted biennially by education and health agencies among middle and high school principals and lead health education teachers.

If you would like to receive updates and announcements on School Health Profiles in the future, please subscribe to the School Health Profiles list.

Twitter: Follow DrZazaCDC

HHS/CDC Releases Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action

July 1, 2014

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)  Preventing Youth Violence: Opportunities for Action and its companion guide provide information and actions to help all community members be a part of the solution.

There are steps that community leaders and members, public health professionals, families, adults who work with youth, and young people can take today that can stop youth violence before it starts.

Learn More

Striving to Reduce Youth Violence Everywhere

ASCD and HHS/CDC Announce Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model

April 2, 2014

ASCD, a global community dedicated to excellence in learning, teaching, and leading, announced today the new Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) model that is recommended as a strategy for improving students’ health and learning in our schools. Developed by ASCD and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with key leaders from education, public health, and school health fields, the new model combines and builds on elements of the traditional coordinated school health approach and the whole child framework to strengthen a unified and collaborative approach to learning and health.

A whole child approach, which ensures that each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged, sets the standard for comprehensive, sustainable school improvement and provides for long-term student success. The new WSCC model responds to the call for greater alignment, integration, and collaboration between education and health to improve each child’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.

The model incorporates the components of an effective school health program and the tenets of the whole child approach to education to address the symbiotic relationship between learning and health. In doing so, the model continues the focus of the traditional coordinated school health approach but aligns it with the structure, framework, and objectives of education. This is showcased by the expanded components focusing additional attention on the social and emotional climate of the school and classroom environments and the pivotal role that community involvement plays in the growth and development of our youth.

The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model focuses its attention on the child, emphasizing a schoolwide approach and acknowledging learning, health, and the school as being a part and reflection of the local community. Because they have contact with 95 percent of U.S. children ages 5–17, schools are the primary institution responsible for childhood development, after the family. It is essential that schools have an effective and comprehensive school health model in place during these critical years of social, psychological, physical, and intellectual development.

Whereas the traditional coordinated school health model contained eight components, the WSCC contains 10, expanding Health and Safe School Environment and Family/Community Involvement into four distinct components:

-Social and Emotional Climate

-Physical Environment

-Family Engagement

-Community Involvement

This change marks the need for greater emphasis on both the psychosocial and physical environment as well as the ever-increasing roles that community agencies and families must play. Finally, this new model also addresses the need to engage students as active participants in their learning and health.

CDC will be integrating this new model into its school health initiatives, placing ASCD’s whole child framework at the center of health and education alignment in school settings. For more information about CDC’s school health initiatives, visit

For more information about ASCD’s Whole Child Initiative, visit To find out about ASCD’s focus on integrating learning and health visit You can also find out more about ASCD’s other programs, products, services and memberships at

Only Two States Meet CDC Guidelines for Tobacco Prevention Spending: Report

December 16, 2013

Alaska and North Dakota are the only states that will meet 2014 recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for spending on programs to prevent youth from starting to smoke, and helping current smokers quit, according to a new reportby advocacy groups.

Most states will fail to meet the CDC guidelines despite billions of dollars received from tobacco taxes and settlements with tobacco manufacturers more than a decade ago, The New York Times reports.

The groups, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Lung Association, estimate that states will earn $25 billion in tobacco-related revenue next year, including $7 billion from settlements between tobacco companies and states. Of that total, states are expected to spend just $481 million on tobacco prevention programs. The CDC has recommended states spend $3.7 billion.

In 2002, states spent a total of $750 million on tobacco prevention efforts, the article notes.

States receiving tobacco company money have discretion about how to spend it, and many have chosen to use the funds for unrelated public policy initiatives. In 2014, more than 40 states and the District of Columbia will not spend even half of the amount recommended by the CDC for smoking cessation and prevention programs.

“It is public health malpractice that the states are spending so little on tobacco prevention programs despite having so much evidence that these programs work to save lives and save money,” Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said in anews release. “To win the fight against tobacco, elected officials at all levels must step up efforts to implement proven solutions, including well-funded tobacco prevention programs.”


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