Schools in two states are starting to use new programs designed to fight prescription painkiller abuse, Reuters reports.
The programs, being rolled out in Illinois and Pennsylvania, are designed for middle school and high school students.
The programs' developers say it is more effective to target painkillers, a narcotic of choice for teens, rather than emphasizing a more generalized anti-drug approach. They focus on the science of addiction instead of scare tactics, the article notes.
The programs face challenges, particularly in the area of funding. In 2011, money for the former Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities, which funded school prevention programs, was cut. Anti-drug programs have also fallen by the wayside as schools increasingly focus on academic testing. Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), a prevention program that was widely used, has since been criticized in many evaluations for failing to prove effective in deterring drug use.
One of the new programs, Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE), teaches students how to recognize symptoms of a drug overdose. It emphasizes the importance of quickly seeking medical attention for a person who has overdosed. The program also teaches teens it is dangerous to use prescription drugs unless they are following a doctor's orders.
Another program, called Heroin Prevention Education, uses interactive software based on the life of a teen who is recovering from addiction to heroin. The teen began abusing opioid painkillers after having his wisdom teeth extracted, and then moved on to using heroin.
Legislators in other states, including New York, New Jersey and Wisconsin, have proposed measures that would require public schools to educate students about opioid drug abuse.