Michael Senn is one of the students of Downingtown High School East; he and his classmates have had the opportunity of sitting in a program presented by Narcotics Overdose Prevention and Education, also known as NOPE. The organization offers education about prescription opiate painkillers in high schools and middle schools.
The programs presented around the country are starting from Pennsylvania and Illinois, two states which battle a staggering 71 percent of deaths caused by prescription drugs. The main concern is the younger demographic and the suburban users who are more and more drawn to abusing such substances.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that prescription drugs have taken more than 16,000 lives in 2013, nationwide, which represented a 50 percent increase from the reports from three years before.
The new programs have altered the less effective approach of covering all the drugs, and they are now focused on painkillers, which is the number one choice of narcotics for teenagers. The programs’ developers have replaced the scare tactics with digital studies and they have switched the focus on explaining addiction. But even with fresh mindsets on the project, experts are skeptic about its success.
Funding is one of the greatest obstacles in pursuing an efficient anti-drug program, ever since 2011, when the former Office of the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities lost its funding, leaving the field of prevention programs at bay. These programs where then overtaken by the priority of academic testing, which has been on the rise in the last years. On top of everything, the NOPE project couldn’t have come up in a harsher environment, which criticizes the initiative of anti-drug programs in schools.
This current reaction to these programs is caused by former failure in proving their efficiency in preventing and slowing drug use among high school students. The most infamous program, Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, launched the 80s, has been under heavy criticism, its motto “Just Say No” also openly mocked.
However, NOPE boasts in having found better strategies, based on realizing how the adolescent brain develops and how addiction alters the neural connections. In consequence, in their programs, students are taught how to spot symptoms of drug abuse and focus on the importance of calling for immediate medical attention for overdose victims. The instructors also teach teens about the safety of taking prescription drugs only under a doctor’s supervision.
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