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Computer-based Prescription Opioid Abuse Prevention for Adolescents

Funding Source

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Project Period

2014 - 2016

Principal Investigator

Lisa A. Marsch, PhD

Other Project Staff

Sarah K. Moore, PhD (Project Co-Investigator and Site Principal Investigator); Sarah Lord, PhD (Project Co-Investigator); Michael Grabinski (Lead Developer); Sarah Bessen (Research Assistant)

Project Summary

Recreational use of prescription opioids among adolescents is a significant and growing public health concern and has been referred to as an emerging epidemic in the U.S.   Although a number of science-based, interactive, drug-abuse prevention programs focus on preventing use of non-prescription drugs among youth, to our knowledge, no science-based, interactive program focused on the prevention of prescription opioid abuse among youth exists.   Given that adolescents’ views about the recreational use of prescription opioids differ in systematic ways from use of illegal, non-prescription drugs, developing an effective prevention program for youth targeted specifically at prescription opioid abuse is critical.

In this project, we are developing an interactive, web-based program for youth ages 11-14 focused on the prevention of prescription opioid abuse.   This program will be grounded in a scientific understanding of risk factors for prescription opioid abuse among youth, employ informational technologies which are effective in promoting relevant knowledge and skills, and present program content using strategies which have been shown to be highly appealing to adolescents.   In our completed Phase 1 of this project, we developed and demonstrated the scientific, technical and commercial merit and feasibility of a prototype of a web-based, prescription opioid abuse prevention program for youth.  Phase I results demonstrated the high acceptability and potential utility of the prototype of this program to the target audience.   Participants’ rated the program very positively, and their knowledge related to prescription opioid abuse prevention markedly increased from low baseline levels to perfect or near perfect levels after completing the program prototype.   In this Phase 2 project, we will complete the development of all components of the multimedia, prescription opioid abuse prevention program and conduct a randomized, controlled trial with youth (ages 11-14 years) to evaluate the effectiveness of the web-based prevention intervention in increasing knowledge about key issues relevant to prescription opioid abuse among youth, skills acquisition relevant to preventing their misuse, negative attitudes about prescription opioid misuse, and perceived risk associated with their misuse.  We will also assess the program’s effectiveness in reducing intentions to misuse prescription opioids as well as actual rates of such use.

This program will be developed as a mobile-friendly website which can be accessed via a variety of platforms online (e.g., desktop interface, mobile device) to enable flexible use in a variety of settings.  If this tool is shown to be effective in this project, we plan to embed it in a suite of science-based, technology-delivered tools focused on the prevention and treatment of substance use disorders that have been developed and deployed in a wide array of settings by our group.

Public Health Relevance

This program may provide an innovative, engaging, effective and potentially cost-effective tool for promoting the widespread delivery of science-based prevention of prescription opioid abuse among adolescents.

Note: CTBH Director, Dr. Marsch, is affiliated with the small business that is developing this web-based program. This relationship is managed by her academic institution.