Bringing Substance Abuse Education to High School Students

Note: This post by second-year student pharmacist Anoopa Poovathodi was originally published on Inside SOP, the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.

Recently, I volunteered to assist with an event organized by Generation Rx, a branch of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) chapter at the School of Pharmacy. The mission of Generation Rx is to promote safe medication use among members of the local community. To help fulfill this mission, student pharmacists who volunteer with this group visit high schools each semester to deliver presentations about marijuana and opioid use. Last semester, presentations were held  Nov. 30 at Gaithersburg (Md.) High School.

Tackling a Hot-Button Issue

I offered to volunteer for this event given the relevance of the topic to the broader opioid abuse epidemic that is rattling nearly every state in the country. It is important for teenagers to be aware of the epidemic, because research has shown that the younger students are when they first become aware of the problem, the more vigilant they will be about taking steps to prevent drug and opioid abuse in their own lives. Our presentations provide students with important scientific data, which can help them understand the serious consequences associated with drug and opioid use.

Our group delivered multiple presentations to students throughout the day. The presentations began at the start of the school day and ended after students’ last class. Students from across the School of Pharmacy volunteered to assist third-year student pharmacist Larissa Nguy and second-year student pharmacist Michael Ho, co-chairs for Generation Rx at the Universities at Shady Grove, with presenting the talks. Each presentation lasted about 40 minutes and was followed by a question-and-answer session.

Having the Important Conversations

It was great to see the students become actively engaged during the presentations, sharing their knowledge and asking questions. Although they appeared to know a lot about the opioid abuse epidemic, it had not necessarily “hit home” enough to  make them think about the seriousness of the problem. In fact, many students didn’t think that using marijuana or opioids could lead to problems with addiction. They also were unaware of the health problems that could occur as a result of abusing these substances. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

At the end of each presentation, we could see changes in the attitudes of many students.  It was a very gratifying experience to have this opportunity to interact with young, active minds and to help plant new ideas within them that hopefully will help them lead healthy lives. It feels great to know that our words can make a lifelong impact on these students since we are presenting them with scientific facts from reliable sources.

Getting Involved with a Good Cause

Generation Rx is always looking for new volunteers for this event. As student pharmacists, it is our responsibility to make our communities — and especially our young people — aware of the substance abuse problem that is looming in our area. As an APhA-ASP member, I urge other student pharmacists to take part in this event and others like it. Let us work together to make a positive impact in our community by educating future generations about this nationwide epidemic.


Anoopa PoovathodiEducation, University Life, USGAFebruary 15, 20180 comments

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