Preventing Opioid Misuse and Potential Abuse Among Adolescents in Massachusetts Through a Parent Education Program
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CitationVazquez, Danny. 2019. Preventing Opioid Misuse and Potential Abuse Among Adolescents in Massachusetts Through a Parent Education Program. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard Medical School.
Purpose of This Report
Over the past 15 years, families, communities, and individuals across the United States have been tragically affected by the opioid epidemic with more than 130 people dying daily from an opioid overdose, including children and adolescents. The opioid epidemic has also profoundly impacted the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with the state among the top ten highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths. In Massachusetts, this unfortunate loss of life results in a conservative economic burden estimate of $9.7 billion in lost productivity alone, without accounting for costs of treatment. Much of this is likely attributable to disability and mortality in young adults.
Adolescents who use opioids are significantly more likely to abuse opioids as adults, resulting in tragic loss of life and costs to society. Our report will outline recommendations to engage and educate parents and families in the prevention of opioid misuse in children and adolescents with the goal of reducing young adult misuse.
Previous Work in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has already taken significant steps to curb the opioid epidemic with the development of numerous grant programs, evidence-based treatment and screening programs, an online repository of health resources, and the Governor’s Opioid Addiction Working Group. Most importantly, Massachusetts developed Project Here as an evidence-based prevention initiative to educate middle schoolers and give them the life skills necessary to make healthy life choices related to substance use. Understanding that the brains of children are still developing and are vulnerable to both positive and negative influences, Project Here seeks to strengthen child habits to reject substance misuse consciously.
Despite the success of Project Here, no such education initiative exists for parents in Massachusetts. It has been demonstrated that strong parent support is a protective factor against youth substance misuse, which begins with educating parents on how to support their children. Thus, the Office of the Attorney General tasked us with producing recommendations for the development of a parent education program.
Parent Opioid Education Programs in the United States
We conducted an extensive literature review to find the most well-developed parent opioid education programs across the country. Noteworthy programs include:
• The Truth About Opioids is a comprehensive public education campaign focused on preventing and reducing opioid misuse in youth and young adults.
o The program website provides information on topics related to opioid use disorder and addiction through a sleek, modern web-based interface
o The program is also very active on social media platforms that are often frequented by youth (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)
• The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is an organization committed to addressing substance use and addiction, from prevention to recovery with a family focus.
o In partnership with the Medicine Abuse Project, the website provides extensive resources on the opioid epidemic, including toolkits for parents and healthcare providers, documentary film on Rx abuse, and e-book on heroin, fentanyl, and other opioids
• The Drug Enforcement Agency and Discovery Education developed Operation Prevention, a free prevention program targeted toward children. It provides:
o Virtual field trips to hear stories of those who dealt with opioid addiction
o Classroom resources for elementary, middle, and high school students
o Parent toolkit on the warning signs of prescription opioid misuse
• Ohio’s Start Talking! is a multifaceted program to give parents the tools to engage and discuss substance misuse with youth. Notable components include:
o Parents360Rx: for parent education and leading small group discussions
o Know!: a free, opt-in monthly email developed by the Prevention Action Alliance of Ohio with resources and tips to serve as a reminder to parents to discuss substance misuse with their children
o Numerous partnerships, from AAA to the Ohio State Highway Patrol
• Colorado’s Speak Now! is a parent education website with 4 major components:
o Information about various abusable substances
o Parent communication tips for children at different developmental stages
o Resources, such as regional agencies and 15-second educational videos
Importantly, no parent education program has demonstrated an impact on adolescent or young adult opioid misuse.
1. Develop online parent toolkit
2. Launch opt-in monthly e-mail newsletter for parents
3. Add interactive parent-child tools to Project Here
4. Provide parent toolkit resources in Spanish
Outreach to Parents
1. Ensure consistency in social marketing campaign for parents•
2. Utilize Facebook advertisements to engage parents
3. Continue other forms of advertising (e.g., radio, TV, online videos)
4. Incorporate information on opioid misuse during mandatory two-hour parent class for junior operator licenses
1. Ensure the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention (IACSP) meets actively
2. Prioritize adolescent opioid and substance use prevention as a strategic objective
3. Produce annual reports to the Governor and the Attorney General’s Office summarizing activities of the IACSP
1. Seek partnerships with businesses, foundations, and NGOs for parent education and outreach initiatives
Youth Support Programs
1. Provide state-level funding for afterschool programs to incorporate opioid and substance prevention
2. Partner with organizations like the Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership to increase collaboration among afterschool programs
Screening and Referral to Treatment
1. Increase training of school health personnel through Massachusetts Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment - Training & Technical Assistance (MASBIRT TTA)
2. Notify all parents about substance use screening tool before implementation
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:41971508