Arkansas to Launch Initiative to Reduce Prescription Drug Misuse in Teens

Prescription for Life offers free educational training to high school students about prescription opioid misuse.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge recently announced the launch of Prescription for Life, which aims to reduce prescription drug misuse during the current opioid epidemic.

The digital platform will be free to all high school students in Arkansas with the goal of educating these individuals about the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse, according to a press release.

“Talking about the harmful impact of prescription drug abuse with children and teenagers can no longer be a goal. It has to be a reality,” Rutledge said in the release. “Arkansas ranks first in the nation for ages 12 to 17 in misuse of painkillers. Reversing this trend is a top priority of mine. Prescription for Life will be available to every high school student in Arkansas beginning this fall.”

Prescription for Life will be aligned with the CDC’s National Health Education Standards and state academic standards, according to the release.

The digital course will use an evidence-based public health approach to equip teenagers with the knowledge to make important decisions about prescription drugs, according to the release. The modular course includes videos, animations, simulations, and interactivity to provide each high school student with a personalized experience.

The real-life simulations will show students the toll misuse can take on physical and mental health, relationships, and future goals. The scenario-based exercises will also help the teenagers practice how to support friends in their choices regarding proper use of prescription drugs, according to the release.

Educator training will ensure optimal integration into the classroom. Additionally, assessments before and after the program will measure any changes in the attitudes and behavior of the students.

Educators from the attorney general’s office will run in-person and webcast training, in addition to giving presentations to parent and community groups throughout Arkansas regarding how to talk with teenagers about prescription drug diversion, according to the release.

The program will be offered in 298 public schools and offered to homeschool networks, parochial, and private schools.

“The Arkansas attorney general's office and the Drug Enforcement Administration [DEA] have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide,” said Matthew R. Barden, assistant special agent in charge at the DEA. “This important initiative is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. DEA is committed to supporting all educational efforts that provide classroom resources and prevention tools to educators and parents that aim to introduce students to the science behind opioids and their impact on the brain and body.”

The new educational program will be added to the robust prescription drug abuse prevention initiative, according to the release.

Overdose-related deaths are on the rise in the United States, with rates in Arkansas increasing from 287 deaths in 2015 to 335 in 2016, according to the release. With more than 40% of teenagers in the state having tried prescription drugs and more than 50% of teens reporting easy access to prescription drugs through medicine cabinets, this group is vulnerable to prescription drug misuse.

“Prescription for Life is an innovative training concept designed to prepare our younger generations to keep their selves, friends, and communities safe from substance abuse,” said Kirk Lane, Arkansas State drug director designee and police chief of Benton, AK. “Education and community involvement is the key to resolving the issues of substance use disorder.”