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Popping the myths of prescription pills

U student Julie Corradi is dedicated to halting the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs.

July 16, 2014

Three decades ago, a partnership in Los Angeles helped wage a war against drugs and a fight for youth wellness with its D.A.R.E. campaign, which still exists today—thousands of black t-shirts and slogans later.

Times have changed considerably since then, and Americans from youth to senior citizens are dealing with a new scourge—the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. But a University of Minnesota student in the U’s College of Pharmacy is doing her best to help ameliorate that problem through two outreach programs.

Julie Corradi, a fourth-year pharmacy student on the Duluth campus, first became involved with an educational program called AWARxE [http://www.awarerx.org/] about two years ago. That program is aimed at students in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades—the ages when many youth first become aware of potentially dangerous drugs in the medicine cabinet.

“Kids abuse prescription drugs due to the ‘safety’ that they think that they have,” Corradi says. “People think that just because it’s a prescription drug it’s safe. … So, the message that we’re trying to get across is that prescription drugs are still dangerous. They can be just as dangerous as illicit street drugs.”

She has since set up a similar, local campaign in Duluth called Generation Rx. That national program also aims to prevent prescription drug abuse and misuse, but has an expanded audience that includes elementary schoolchildren, college students, and senior citizens.

Corradi has about 30 volunteers that help her do presentations throughout the year, tailored to specific age groups and their relevant concerns.

For residents in a nursing home, the messages are focused on the safety of their medications, how to take them correctly and in the right doses, and what questions they should ask their pharmacists.

Teens learn about commonly abused prescription drugs as well as the trappings of certain over-the-counter medications. They find out about the various prescription drug classes, side effects, and how consuming them with alcohol is dangerous.

Adult and parent audiences are also given an overview of abused prescription drugs, including the street names they might hear their kids mention. And they’re taught the importance of locking medicine cabinets and knowing how many pills they have left—“keeping them out of the reach of children,” Corradi says.

The impact of the two programs is impressive. Between AWARxE and Generation Rx, Corradi and her fellow volunteers have reached more than 5,000 people. She says that teachers offer their gratitude, often ask her to come back, and also to consider expanding to other topics like the increasing use of synthetic drugs.

“Just to know that you’re kind of able to make a difference in [young people’s] lives, or that you can prevent them or one of their friends from taking a prescription medication, it’s kind of nice,” Corradi says, “and that’s why I continue to do it."

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