Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse among Adolescents

Americans consume more opioids than any other country. In 2016, doctors prescribed enough opioids to fill a bottle for every American adult. While there has been an increased investment in addiction treatment and recovery programs, programs aimed at prevention education are a key and often neglected component of comprehensive efforts to curb prescription drug abuse. Data from the Prescription Drug Safety Network shows that high school students report a lack of skills and self-confidence when it comes to navigating prescription drug abuse and misuse at their school.

This week is National Prevention Week, and the theme is “Action Today. Healthier Tomorrow.” Educating our youth today is more important than ever to combat the risks and harms associated with prescription drug misuse and abuse.

The best prevention education approaches are grounded in evidence that has been validated by existing research on effective prevention practice. Equally important, successful implementation among adolescents requires a firm grasp on how young people understand prescription drugs,  the effect these drugs can have on their lives, and the perceived risk in their communities.

Below are four pillars to effective prescription drug abuse prevention education among adolescents:

  1. Provide an inclusive experience through interactive content that recognizes the unique needs and experiences of a diverse population of learners.
  2. Utilize social norms theory to engage the healthy majority of students who do not misuse or abuse prescription drugs and challenge misperceptions about the prevalence and social acceptance of prescription drug misuse and abuse.
  3. Incorporate bystander intervention strategies to help students recognize the signs of prescription drug misuse and abuse and build self-efficacy to assist someone who may be struggling with such issues or could be at risk of an overdose.
  4. Identify ongoing focus areas using data from course surveys and assessments to inform additional education and prevention strategies.

Through a partnership with the Prescription Drug Safety Network, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and EVERFI are providing digital prevention education to high school students in northern West Virginia, Philadelphia, and Cleveland, all at no cost to schools.

Learn more about the U.S Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s response to the opioid crisis here.