Prescription misuse among teenagers and young adults was the topic of a workshop during the Louisiana Opioid Action Summit held Sept. 4-6. Summit attendees learned about Generation Rx, a free program created to help raise awareness about misuse of prescription pain relievers. Such misuse has been viewed as a key driver of the opioid epidemic, and the Louisiana Department of Health has led efforts to educate physicians about the dangers of overprescribing opioid pain medication.
However, more can be done to educate people from all age groups about the dangers of prescription misuse. That's where Generation Rx comes in. The program has specially designed educational materials targeting five age groups (elementary, teen, college, adult and older adult), with materials for young people that can be used in K-12 education and in higher education.
Nicole Cartwright Kwieck, a clinical professor of pharmacology at The Ohio State University, where Generation Rx was developed, presented during the summit session on teens and young adults. Kwieck said that a team of researchers and professors created Generation Rx after realizing there was a need for better education around prescription drug use — particularly in school settings.
“We do a terrible job in this country teaching people how to use medications,” Kwieck said. “If you think back on your own experience ... you were probably weren't taught in school. You were probably taught by a parent or a loved one, maybe a professional.”
Reaching younger audiences
The core messages communicated through Generation Rx are:
- Only use prescription medications as directed by a health professional.
- Never share your prescription medications with others or use someone else’s medications.
- Always store your medications securely to prevent others from taking them, and properly dispose of medications that you no longer need.
- Be a good example to those around you by modeling these safe medication-taking practices and discussing the dangers of misusing prescription drugs with your family, friends, colleagues, students or patients.
In developing the teen and higher education-focused section of the program, Kwieck said, program authors considered the idea that teens and young adults are often seeking new experiences and may see the risk of any type of drug misuse as compelling. They also tend to overestimate the risky behaviors of their peers, leading to conclusions such as “Everyone else is doing it so I can, too.”
The materials were also developed with the idea that teens often don't respond well to lectures and have short attention spans, so the activities are designed to get “them out of their seats” and highlight the dangers that prescription misuse poses. Activities include a Family Feud-style game, an interactive discussion designed around a PowerPoint presentation and skits that allow participants to act out various scenarios.
Rusty Fornea, who spoke during the session for the Washington Parish-based ADAPT Inc., said the organization deployed Generation Rx in parish schools in the spring and received positive responses. Some of those schools, Fornea said, have asked when Generation Rx will return.
“Once we were able to get it rolling, the facilitators and the youth really enjoyed it because it's interactive,” Fornea said.
More than 5,700 Americans misuse a prescription pain reliever each day, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
While 83% of those prescriptions came from a single doctor, more than half of those misused were obtained through a friend or relative, according to data from SAMSHA. That means that misused prescription pain relievers are often not prescribed to the person taking them, which is helping fuel the opioid crisis and leading to addiction and overdose deaths.
You can learn more about Generation Rx here.