Social Impact Through Prevention Education: Combating The Opioid Crisis With Prescription Drug Abuse Education
Drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in the U.S., with more than 70,000 death-inducing drug overdoses occurring each year. However, illicit drugs are not the only culprit. Prescription drug abuse is one of the main causes of overdoses. The statistics of prescription drug abuse versus illicit drug abuse highlight the urgent threat of the misuse and abuse of prescribed medications. In 2016, opioids were responsible for roughly 78% of all drug overdose deaths. Prescription opioids, specifically, caused nearly a quarter of all drug overdose deaths. Further, prescription opioids can serve as a gateway to addictions.
Defeating the prescription drug epidemic will require an all-hands-on-deck approach and solutions that are focused not just on treatment after addiction occurs, but on addiction prevention before it can start. It is estimated that implementing nationwide drug prevention programs that work on prescription drug abuse education, would eliminate substance abuse initiation for 1.5 million young people.
Addiction prevention efforts must start early, as 90% of addictions form during the teens and early twenties. Research shows that prescription drug abuse prevention education for middle and high school students can indeed make a positive impact. By learning the dangers of drug abuse and how to be careful with prescription drugs, students develop strengthened drug resistance skills, attitudes, and personal commitments against drug abuse.
The White House Opioid Commission recommends evidence-based drug prevention programs in U.S. schools to provide students with a thorough education in prescription drug abuse. So far, five states have laws requiring in-school drug abuse education programs, and another eight have proposed legislation to implement such programs.
According to a recent survey of more than 500 parents, the vast majority feel unprepared to talk to their kids about prescription drug abuse themselves. This further underscores the urgency for school-based prevention programs.
So why don’t these programs exist in all US schools?
It seems the current main obstacle is not proving the merits of prescription drug abuse education, but rather securing the funding and high-quality, accessible programming to carry out this education effectively across the country. While schools may be the logical vessel, school districts and teachers very often lack the budget and bandwidth to get it done–especially if it’s not yet mandated in their state.
This is where team effort is essential. Parents, government agencies, elected officials, and global and community businesses all have a responsibility in fighting this crisis. Prescription drug and opioid abuse is the health threat of this generation, and teaching and reinforcing the risks to youth today must be a priority, as it has been with alcohol and tobacco.
How can businesses join the fight against prescription drug abuse?
Take part in the conversation, advocate for mandates around prescription drug safety education, do research, and invest in a vetted solution that you believe in and that matches your company’s values.
EVERFI’s Prescription Drug Safety Network (PDSN) welcomes thought-leaders from around the country to engage in action-oriented dialogue and events to curtail this epidemic and make prevention-based prescription drug education a reality nationwide. Companies and brands with a desire to make a social impact can facilitate this critical education by joining the PDSN consortium and/or underwriting EVERFI’s web-based prescription drug safety program in schools in their communities. Learn how to join the movement here.