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The Fight Against Teens' Prescription Drug Abuse: School and Home Programs

First Posted: Feb 18, 2014 03:20 PM EST

Prescription drug abuse among teenagers has been a widespread issue for quite some time now. With anti-depressants, painkillers, sleeping pills, and more, various programs have had difficulty in curbing this drug abuse. A new study has shown promising results. 

Researchers at Duke University and Pennsylvania State University conducted a six-year study involving 11,000 teenagers. It was the first study of its kind to measure to success and cost-effectiveness of prescription drug abuse prevention efforts. Their results showed a 10% reduction in abuse rates when combining a school-based program with a home-based intervention.

However, when the school-based programs and home-based interventions were administered separately, they were rendered ineffective. These combined treatments primarily focused on prescription opioid abuse, otherwise known as painkillers, including Percocet, Oxycontin, and Vicodin. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over five million people were abusing these drugs nonmedically.

Max Crowley is a prevention scientist at Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy. He and his co-authors have found that the combination of these school and home-based programs are effective when dealing with teens, but it is most important because of the prevalence and abuse of prescription opioids.

"These drugs are very available, and highly addictive," said Crowley in this EurekAlert! article. "There's a growing national debate about whether we should restrict access to these drugs, but at the same time, the drugs are hugely important for pain management."

One program proved to be helpful when administered without a home-based program. The Life Skills Training program was the most effective prevention program when used by itself, the study reported. As opposed to costing society an average of $7,500, which is the average cost for a prescription drug abuser, Life Skills training only costs $15 per child. The study looked at 28 public schools in Iowa and Pennsylvania with students ranging from grades 6-12. Of the four school-based prevention programs studied, Life Skills Training was the most effective.

Crowley and his authors hope that legislators and drug awareness educators will make note of this study to help improve the current circumstances. To read more about the Duke and PSU study, visit this EurekAlert! article.

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