Learning First Alliance

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Be Smart about Prescription Drugs — Lessons for Youth

NEA Healthy Futures's picture

According to the recently released 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, more than one in five high school students reported taking a prescription drug without a doctor’s prescription. 

Whether it is intentional abuse (taking a medicine without a prescription, in a way other than as prescribed, or for the experience of feelings elicited) or misuse (unknowingly or mistakenly taking a prescription drug in a way other than intended or directed), the consequences can be serious, even life-threatening.

Many students erroneously believe that prescription medicines are “safer” than illegal street drugs. Teens who abuse prescription drugs report that it is relatively easy for them to get the drugs from friends or relatives Adults might not understand some of the risks associated with the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs (for example, using an antibiotic prescribed for one child’s sore throat for another child’s). 

Antibiotics and other medicines can save lives, and the proper use of prescription drugs is an important life-skill. School health education programs can help build the skills and the knowledge that young people need to make healthier choices.  It is especially important to reach students before 9th grade, when most misuse and abuse starts.

Health education is a curricular area with voluntary national standards and assessment tools.  The knowledge and many of the skills taught in health education classes align well with the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. 

To support educators in this work, the NEA Health Information Network has created Rx for Understanding: Be Smart About Prescription Drugs, a set of 10 standards-based lessons for grades 5-8.  These lessons are aligned to the national Health Education Standards and the Common Core State Standards.  The lessons were pilot-tested by middle grade educators across the country.

Rx for Understanding includes detailed guidance for teachers on leading the lessons, reproducible student handouts, and parent/family communication tools. It also contains background information to help educators better understand the problem of prescription drug misuse and abuse.

Rx for Understanding can be ordered free from the National Education Association Health Information Network website

Editor’s Note: This post is from our partners at the NEA Health Information Network (NEA HIN). Each month, we feature a new column on a topic related to school health. Through this effort, we hope to inform the public of important health issues that impact schools and offer educators and parents resources to address them.

Today's post was authored by Nora Howley.

Image by Tom Varco (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons