Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Putting the Lid on Prescription Drug Abuse

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By Nora Howley, Manager of Programs, NEA Health Information Network

March and April bring spring break for millions of students.  Summer break is just around the corner. And for too many students, vacation may mean easy access to their parent’s medicine cabinet. From cough syrup to pain killers, too many young people are able to access prescription and non-prescription drugs. 

Students might seek to emulate media stars by ingesting a “sizzurp’ (a mixture of codeine cough syrup, fruit flavored soda, and a jolly rancher). Or they may decide to try their parent’s painkillers. Or they may seek out a classmate’s ADHD drug. And they may find themselves in the hospital with a seizure or an overdose.

The 2012 Monitoring the Future study found that 21.2% of high school seniors reported that they had improperly used a prescription drug. So while most young people are making the right choices, too many are putting themselves at risk.

Learning about the proper use prescription drugs properly is one of the life skills that young people need as they move into adulthood. Rx for Understanding: Be Smart About Prescription Drugs is a set of standards-based lessons for use in middle school that teach the knowledge and skills young people need to make healthy choices.

The first lesson relates to the issue of prescription drug safety to overall health. The next lessons move into the key concepts of proper use, misuse, and abuse. The final lesson is a culminating project that applies the previous content to goal setting and communications. Aligned to the National Health Education Standards and the Common Core State Standards, the lessons are free and can be ordered in hard copy or downloaded. This summer, a new edition will come out that provides lessons for high school students. 

Of course, there is more to building resiliency against drug use. The Parent Toolkit from the Partnership at Drugfree.org offers additional resources and tips to help parents and communities.  Two of the most important: Properly secure medications in the home and properly dispose of used drugs. 

We all can help stop young people from abusing prescription drugs. What will you do?


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.

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