Take Action: Educators

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Educators: Make A Difference In Your Community

The problem of teen prescription drug abuse is taking a toll on communities across the country. Almost one in four high school students has taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed for them by a doctor. More teens abuse prescription drugs than illegal drugs, except marijuana.

As educators — teachers, principals and school nurses — you spend a great deal of time around teens every day and have a better than average understanding of their behaviors and culture. Because you are on the front lines, you have a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of prescription drug abuse and to influence your students.

Get the Facts

The more you know about prescription drug abuse, the better able you will be to educate the students at your school.

Notice Changes in Your Students

Because you spend so much time every day with your students, you are in a good position to notice if the teens in your class or at your school are showing any physical or behavioral changes that might indicate prescription drug abuse.

If you observe any significant changes in a student, talk to the principal, school nurse or guidance counselor about appropriate next steps. The sooner you address the problem, the more quickly the teen can get the necessary treatment.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Painkillers (opioids)
Physical (effect on the body)

  • Slowed physical activity
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sedation
  • Itching
  • Sweating, clammy skin
  • Smaller pupils (constriction)
  • Flushed skin on face and neck
  • Constipation, nausea, vomiting
  • Slowed breathing

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Drowsiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Apathy

Physical (effect on the body)

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sedation/sleepiness
  • Enlarged pupils (dilated)

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence)
  • Reduction in reaction time
  • Impaired mental functioning and judgment
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Irritability

Physical (effect on the body)

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Flushed skin
  • Chest pain with palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Enlarged pupils (dilated)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate (rapid breathing)
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Seizures, heart attack, or stroke

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Agitation, hostility, aggression
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Insomnia, restlessness
  • Suicidal or homicidal tendencies
  • Paranoia, sometimes accompanied by both auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Nervousness/anxiousness


Help your students and their parents understand the risks and consequences of prescription drug abuse, as well as the safe and proper use of prescription and over-the-counter medication, by incorporating the following videos, tools, and lesson plans into your classes, school assemblies, and meetings.

For Middle and High School Students:

Animated Video and Discussion Guide

School Assembly Videos Featuring Dr. Drew

School Tool Kit

For Elementary School Students:

Start Smart Elementary School Tools