LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - As the staggering numbers and statistics climb in the opioid epidemic, officials are working to reach the next generation with news and lessons on the dangers in the medicine cabinet.
That's the idea behind a program coming to Central Arkansas high schools. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge calls it "Prescription for Life” and she helped see the first-in-the-nation program implemented Thursday.
“The goal is to teach them how to make smarter choices, better choices in terms of their knowledge and their information about prescription drugs,” the Republican attorney general said at Morrilton High School.
She made a presentation to about 25 freshmen and sophomores in the school library. It was a tough crowd, even for a politician accustomed to speaking before lawmakers, judges and political rallies.
“I always find that high school students are among my toughest crowds because we've all been high school students,” Rutledge said.
The Prescription For Life program is the brainchild of the Attorney General’s office as part of several anti-drug initiatives. It is a software curriculum provided by a company called Everfi. The cost is coming out of the Attorney General’s budget.
“Most of the information that these young people receive comes from one another,” Rutledge said. “They receive it from parents or adults who don't fully understand the dangers of prescription drugs.”
So this program sits students down, gives them headphones and takes them on a personalized lesson of the dangers in the medicine cabinet. Each answer can lead down an individualized path. It's a part of health class, but the technology is key to making it different from those awkward classes about sex, bullying or drunk driving.
“I feel like it's better than just book and paper all the time,” said Alena Ross, a sophomore who took the class and had a conversation with the attorney general. “I feel that it's something the we actually like to do, so I feel like I'll learn more with it.”
“It's pertinent to what's going in their lives right now and it's a lot of information that they need to know,” said Patti Hill, the coach and health teacher whose kids first heard about the special course at the end of the fall semester. “This is something that’s good for them because anytime they can get on the computer they like to do that.”
There's no question this is a pet project for the attorney general. Rutledge’s office produced research and based this program on other successful initiatives that have gone after cyber-bullying and internet security. Rutledge also says this program has a chance at better success than past education programs like “D.A.R.E” and “Just Say No.”
She also has a clear idea of how to determine effectiveness.
“We are going to measure success as we decrease the number of young people using and abusing prescription drugs,” she said. “Certainly in decreasing those who have become addicted and certainly who have lost their lives.”