Educating teens and parents about opioid abuse

The Pharmacists Teach program helps teens say no to prescription opioid abuse.

Prescription opioid use is at an all-time high in the United States. In fact, although we make up just five percent of the world’s population, we use 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (also known as Vicodin) and 80 percent of its oxycodone (also known as Percocet or Oxycontin).

Unfortunately, these medications come with a high potential for addiction and abuse. What starts out as a legitimately prescribed medical treatment following an injury or surgery can quickly spiral out of control, claiming lives and damaging families in the process. 

Teens are particularly at risk. Peer pressure, ease of access and a general lack of knowledge about the risks of prescription drug abuse can make for a deadly combination. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that someone dies of an unintentional drug overdose every 19 minutes.

As part of our ongoing commitment to educating the public about this epidemic, CVS Health has created the Pharmacists Teach program, which provides teens with the facts about prescription drug abuse through the “One Choice Changes Everything” presentation. Our pharmacists volunteer to visit high school health classes, youth organizations, or faith-based groups and give a powerful presentation that includes stories of real youths whose lives were forever changed by their choice to misuse or abuse prescription painkillers.

"Every year, more than 44,000 people in the United States die from accidental drug overdoses,” says Tom Davis, RPh, Vice President, Pharmacy Professional Practices. “This program provides targeted education to society’s most vulnerable population for drug experimentation: pre-teens and teens. Dispelling the widely held belief among kids in this age group that prescription drugs are safer to experiment with and abuse than street drugs is perhaps one of the most valuable lessons they can receive.”

To date, over 300,000 students in hundreds of communities across the United States have taken part in the program, and feedback from school administrators has been overwhelmingly positive. One high school principal in New York described the program as “an effective and powerful message toward preventing further tragedies in the community.”

However, educating young people is only one facet of addiction prevention. Research shows that children who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t get this information at home. In response, we’ve recently expanded our outreach to create a prevention education program for the adults in these teens’ lives, called “Prescription for Parents”.

The Pharmacists Teach program is offered free of charge to students in grades 7-12 and groups of parents/adults in the communities where our pharmacists live and work. For information about bringing the program to your area, please send an email to​.

This article was originally published on April 7, 2016, and was updated to reflect current data on October 23, 2017.