Prescription drugs can do a lot to help people with medical conditions and, when used appropriately, they can have a positive impact. Unfortunately, many of these drugs are misused and abused by middle-school-aged youth. According to the 2014 Monitoring the Future Survey, the prevalence of prescription drug use in 8th graders was 1.7% and rose to 4.7% by 12th grade. Thirty-three percent of teens believe it is okay to use prescription drugs for an injury, illness, or physical pain even if it has not been prescribed for them. And in 2012, The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study found that a total of 20% of children have misused or abused a prescription drug before the age of 14. Thus, it is essential to educate students on how not to take drugs prescribed to others.
Prescription drug abuse is many times a result of boredom, a need to escape troubles, or a longing to get high. Social pressures and the overwhelming desire to look “cool” in the eyes of peers can also be a driving factor to engage in these behaviors. Students may urge others to use prescription drugs by saying the common phrase “just try it for fun.” Prescription drug abuse has also become more prevalent because of easy accessibility in the family medicine cabinet. A suggested method of prevention is for parents to talk to their children through times of pressure or unhappiness
National Health Promotion Associates (NHPA) is aware of this issue, and is currently creating new sessions on prescription drug abuse for middle-school-aged youth. 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 the 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: Monitoring the future national survey results on drug use, 1975–2013: Volume I, secondary school students, University of Utah Health Care.
Writer: Amanda Flower is a rising junior majoring in Public Health at Muhlenberg College