As the opioid epidemic roils communities across America, our nation’s schools and colleges are also feeling the impact. Ninety percent of all addictions begin between the ages of 12 and 23, a time when most people are in school. How can we overcome funding challenges and raise awareness about the impact of opioid addiction at the high school and college levels?

Prevention education was a key theme during last week’s summit and policy briefing on America’s Opioid Epidemic: Youth Awareness and Prevention. The event was jointly hosted by The Hill, EVERFI, and the Prescription Drug Safety Network and featured remarks from Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), as well as prominent public health officials, physicians, educators, and private-sector leaders who came together to discuss steps they can take to prevent the misuse and abuse of opioids.

During the ‘Industry Perspective’ panel, the audience heard from Rite Aid, AmerisourceBergen and the Association for Accessible Medicines (AAM) all founding members of the Prescription Drug Safety Network who are developing comprehensive strategies to address the nation’s opioid crisis. The organizations shared insights about their strategy and highlighted the impact of their Prescription Drug Safety Network prevention education program. Below are three key takeaways:

Critically Needed Resource for Schools

Not only is school-based prevention education increasingly supported, but it’s also becoming a state imperative in many school districts across the nation. In 2017, 165 new state laws were enacted around prescription drug abuse. Five states now require mandatory K-12 opioid education, and eight states are considering similar legislation. Partners of the Prescription Drug Safety Network are providing prevention solutions that are easy to implement, don’t require extensive teacher training, and don’t put strain on school budgets.

Student Knowledge Gain and Behavior Change

When it comes to prescription drug abuse prevention, knowledge is only part of the equation. The Prescription Drug Safety Network’s course is designed to achieve key behavioral outcomes  for all students. Specific learning objectives mapped to those behavioral outcomes link to individual-level factors that influence behavior. School administrators can also build upon digital course content through supplemental in-class discussion guides that will help them reinforce key learning objectives for their students.

Positive Impact on an Adolescents’ Social Competencies

National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA) research shows that prevention programs for middle and high school students have positive impacts across personal/social competencies, including peer relationships, communication, self-efficacy, assertiveness, and drug resistance skills. Seventy percent of students who completed the Prescription Drug Safety Network’s digital course said that it made more confident in their ability to intervene when they feel a friend may be misusing prescription drugs. Additionally, 71% of students said the course helped them understand various ways to refuse to participate in the misuse of prescription drugs.

For Rite Aid, AmerisourceBergen, AAM and all 18 partners of the Prescription Drug Safety Network, digital prevention education is part of a comprehensive effort that also involves safe disposal programs, prescription drug monitoring programs, provider education, and pain management programs. As our country works to stem the tide of addiction, these leading organizations support the communities they serve by providing a long-term and sustainable prevention solution.

The Case for Prevention Education

To stem the tide of addiction, the epidemic will need to be approached from both ends - with treatment and prevention. But where can organizations start?

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