Project AWARE

Pharmacy Times, Volume 0, 0

Project AWARE, a subgroup ofthe Maine Association of SubstanceAbuse Programs, is ayouth empowerment group that addressescurrent issues important toadolescents, and it is working to raiseawareness of teen prescription drugabuse. Its theater group, the ProjectAWARE Players, recently performed,directed, and wrote the movie Fallingthat premiered in Biddeford, Maine, inearly February. The educational videowill be available nationwide for schoolsand others that wish to spread knowledgeof the problem in their areas laterthis spring.

A group ofstudents aged 14 to 19 yearsparticipated in the productionthat highlightsthe life of a 16-year-old girl whois injured playing soccer andeventually resorts to takingpain medication from ateammate. This ultimately leads to herdownfall as she becomes addicted toprescription drugs.

In the movie, it ispointed out that prescriptiondrugs can certainlyprovide beneficialresults when taken properly,prescribed by adoctor, and dispensedby a pharmacist. Withthe current rise in teenprescription drug abuse,however, the movie isdesigned to make teens,parents, teachers, andothers aware of thepotential for the abuseof pharmaceuticals andits potentially devastatingoutcome.

This kind of effort isnot only commendablebut very timely, in lightof the fact that many surveys of teenagershave indicated a sharp rise inprescription drug problems over thepast few years. Much of this has comefrom teens discovering that what theyneed to get high may be at home intheir parents' medicine cabinets, attheir terminally ill grandparents' homes,at parties, or on the Internet.

Chat rooms and other Web sites thatteens frequent are often filled with theso-called advantages of abusing prescriptiondrugs, how many to take, andmore effective ways to abuse certainpharmaceuticals to create the ultimatehigh. These sites certainly have nothelped stem the tide of prescriptiondrug abuse among our youth.

Part of the answer to this is exactlywhat Project AWARE is trying to do—educate teens and adults about thepotential problems of drug diversion,an issue that all too often still remainshidden in our society. With too manyparents and educators still saying "notmy child" or "not in our school," thehope is that people will wake up andsee that this can be a devastating issuethat must be addressed by the entirecommunity. Law enforcement is only apart of the solution; education and prevention,along with effective treatment,are the best options to confrontthis issue in the teen years and hopefullystop it from becoming a lifetimeaddiction in adult years.

Hats off to Project AWARE for addressingthe issue of prescription drugabuse, and let us hope this importantvideo reaches teenagers, parents, educators,and other members of the generalpublic to make a significant differencein people's lives. My guess is thatit can and will produce some very positiveresults. For more information onProject AWARE, visit its Web site atwww.masap.org/site/project_aware.asp. Requests for advance order formsfor the video can be e-mailed toprojectaware@maine.rr.com.

John Burke, commander ofthe Warren County, Ohio,drug task force and retiredcommander of the CincinnatiPolice PharmaceuticalDiversion Squad, isa 38-year veteran of lawenforcement. Cmdr Burkealso is the current presidentof the National Association of Drug DiversionInvestigators. For information, he can bereached by e-mail at burke@choice.net, viathe Web site www.rxdiversion.com, or byphone at 513-336-0070.