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New Study on Youth-Focused Opioid Education Program Offers Results

Results indicate that the youth program is able to significantly increase youths’ understanding of the risks associated with prescription pain pills; the similarity between heroin and prescription pain pills; and youths’ awareness of the purpose of naloxone.

Overdose Lifeline, Inc. released the findings from a study of their universal educational program, This is (Not) About Drugs (TINAD). Currently, 22 U.S. states, leveraging 390+ strategic community partners, are certified and deploying this critical, time-sensitive, program. The brief intervention is a complement to foundational evidence-based programs such as Botvin Lifeskills and Too Good for Drugs and is designed to raise awareness to substance misuse, with a special emphasis on prescription opioids.

TINAD is an in-class program that teaches teens about the risks of nonprescribed opioid and heroin use. The program includes a guided discussion and a film which finds twelve young people, affected by the opioid crisis, sharing their personal stories for a peer-to-peer learning approach. Participants in TINAD learn about the risks of misusing prescription opioids, that prescription opioids are the same class of drug as heroin, how misusing prescription opioids can lead to addiction or heroin use, that overdose is possible with prescription opioids, and how to recognize the signs of an opioid overdose and to call 911. TINAD also encourage students to make good choices and to ask for help and access resources for making decisions about their own body and health.

Youth education about the risks of prescription pain medicine misuse is critical during this health crisis. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance (YRBSS) reported that for students who misused prescription opioids in grade 12, the mean age of first use was 15.2. The study showed that nonprescribed prescription opioids is the third most used substance (14%) behind Alcohol (60.4%) and Marijuana (35.6%). The study also found that rates of use increase between 9th and 12th grades from 10.9% (9th) to 17.0% (12th).

(YRBSS, June 2018)

Noteworthy: A newly published NIDA-funded, USC study in the July 8, 2019 issue of JAMA Pediatrics shows that teens who use prescription opioids to get high are more likely to start using heroin by high school graduation. The study followed more than 3,000 freshmen from 10 Los Angeles area high schools through their senior years, and were asked about previous and current use of nonprescribed prescription opioids. The study found that 13 percent of current opioid users and 10 percent of former opioid users switched to heroin by the end of high school, leading to the conclusion that adolescents need to be considered, and not overlooked, when discussing the opioid epidemic.  Read more

About the Study

Conducted by the Public Policy Institute at Indiana University, the study examined the efficacy and results of the program in a sample of the population to which the program is targeted. The study included a treatment group, youth who received the TINAD program, and a control group, youth who did not initially partake in the program. Students in treatment group completed a survey before program implementation (pre-test) and ninety-days post-program (post-test). In control groups, the program was delivered following the post-test. A total of 318 students participated in the pre-test: 80.5% in treatment group and 19.5% in control group. A combination of absences and school transfers resulted in a post-test retention rate of 66.7%.

KEY Findings

Students in the treatment group were significantly more likely to understand the similarity between heroin and prescription pain pills.

Students in the treatment and control group understood the addictive nature of heroin. Less known is the correlation between prescription pain medication and heroin — one of the program's core learning objectives.

Students in the treatment group acknowledged significantly more risk associated with the use of unprescribed pain pills and that it is as risky as using heroin.

Two critical knowledge points for youth to obtain during this national health crisis.

In addition to raising awareness to the risk of nonprescribed pain medication misuse, the TINAD program includes information about how to recognize opioid overdose symptoms, the availability of naloxone, and necessity to call 911 to help a person in need.

Students in treatment group were significantly more knowledgeable about naloxone and its purpose.

Students in the treatment group demonstrated a slight, non-significant ability to recognize an overdose and understanding of the addictive nature of heroin.

“In our response to the opioid epidemic, we see this program as an opportunity to educate the youth of Hendricks County about the risks and outcomes of opioid addiction before they become involved. Our school resource officers have already established relationships with their students. With them presenting the “This is Not About Drugs” program, we will have an even greater impact on students.  We believe that this could be a game changer and will undoubtedly make a difference in our community.” — Captain Jack Sadler, Enforcement Division, Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department

“After conducting our Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) for St. Joseph, Elkhart, and Marshall counties in Indiana, it was identified that substance abuse was a concern for our community. Substance Abuse is one of our 4 priorities for the next three years and This is (Not) About Drugs program is one of our core tools to help prevent early misuse of opioids among our younger generation.” — Diana Bernal, MPM, Health and Wellness Project Specialist of Beacon Health System 
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