NEW PROGRAM: First-In-The-Nation Initiative Aimed At Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge announced today at the Arkansas Sheriffs’ Association meeting in Rogers a first-in-the-nation education initiative called “Prescription for Life” featuring a digital platform to be offered at no cost to all high school students in the State to help them understand the dangers of prescription drug misuse and how to prevent abuse.

“Talking about the harmful impact of prescription drug abuse with children and teenagers can no longer be a goal. It has to be a reality,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Arkansas ranks first in the nation for ages 12 to 17 in misuse of painkillers. Reversing this trend is a top priority of mine. Prescription for Life will be available to every high school student in Arkansas beginning this fall.”

Prescription for Life will come at no cost to participating schools. Using an evidence-based public health approach, the digital course will empower high school students with the skills and knowledge they need to make safe and healthy decisions about prescription drugs. The course will be aligned with the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health Education Standards and State academic standards.

The self-paced modular course will use video, animations, simulations and interactivity to deliver a personalized, self-guided learning experience. The real-life simulations will demonstrate the impact misuse can have on students’ physical and mental health, relationships and future goals while the scenario-based exercises will help students practice how to support other students in their choices regarding the safe use of prescription drugs.

Educator trainings will be hosted to ensure effective classroom integration and pre- and post-assessments will be used to measure changes in students attitudes and behavior. Educators from the Attorney General’s office will conduct teacher in-service trainings in person and through webcasts and give presentations to parent and community groups throughout the State about how to talk with young people about risks associated with opioid use and how to recognize signs that their loved ones are abusing drugs.

Rutledge has been meeting with families in recent weeks who have lost loved ones to prescription drugs or have been deeply affected by this national epidemic. As she has listened to their stories, Rutledge asked them for feedback and shared her vision to make Prescription for Life available in Arkansas’s 298 public high schools. The program will also be offered to homeschool networks and to interested Arkansas parochial and private schools.

Scott Doerhoff, who lost his son, Will, to a prescription drug addiction and overdose last year said, “Initiating drug education in Arkansas high schools will create the opportunity for a new culture of awareness and safety for our kids and educate them on the life threatening risk of not only illegal substance abuse but also illicit prescription drug use which is often and extraneously, thought of as being a ‘safe’ way to use substances. The William Christian Doerhoff Memorial Foundation and Parent Advocacy Group applaud Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and her staff for their commitment and leadership in protecting Arkansas children.

“The Arkansas Attorney General’s office and the Drug Enforcement Administration have joined forces to combat a growing epidemic of prescription opioid misuse and heroin use nationwide,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Matthew R. Barden. This important initiative is to educate students about the true impacts of opioids and kick-start lifesaving conversations in the home and classroom. DEA is committed to supporting all educational efforts that provide classroom resources and prevention tools to educators and parents that aim to introduce students to the science behind opioids and their impact on the brain and body.”

“Stemming the tide of the prescription drug abuse epidemic begins with education,” said Arkansas Surgeon General Greg Bledsoe. “Our people – particularly our young people – need to be aware of the high risks associated with prescription drug abuse. I applaud the work of Attorney General Rutledge in initiating this important educational project.”

“Education is critical to combatting prescription drug abuse,” Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner Johnny Key said. “This new program will complement the Arkansas School Health Services Initiative’s efforts to educate students about the harmful effects of prescription drug abuse. We welcome opportunities to partner together to find solutions for issues that affect schools, families and communities.”

“Prescription for Life is an innovative training concept designed to prepare our younger generations to keep their selves, friends, and communities safe from substance abuse,” said Arkansas State Drug Director designee and Benton Police Chief Kirk Lane. “Education and community involvement is the key to resolving the issues of substance use disorder.”

The new education curriculum will be added to the Attorney General’s already robust prescription drug abuse prevention initiative. During 2016, more than 330 pounds of prescription drugs were collected at Attorney General Mobile Offices across Arkansas and 145 pounds have been collected since the beginning of 2017. The sixth annual Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Summit, hosted by Rutledge, is scheduled for Nov. 9 in Hot Springs with over 720 taking advantage of early bird registration.

Drug overdose deaths are on the rise in Arkansas, increasing from 287 in 2015 to 335 in 2016, according to data from the State Crime Lab. More than 40 percent of teenagers in Arkansas have tried prescription drugs and more than half of all teens report that it is easy to obtain prescription drugs from their parents’ or grandparents’ medicine cabinets. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that between 59,000 and 65,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2016, up from 52,404 in 2015 and double the death rate a decade ago. That is more than the number of deaths from car accidents in 2016. And according to the Centers for Disease Control, the majority of drug overdose deaths – six out of 10 – involve an opioid.

Find more information about the program and how to bring it to schools or other settings at