Context The recreational use of prescription medications (such as opioids and benzodiazepines) and illicit drugs (methamphetamine and illegally made fentanyl) amongst adolescents is increasing, so too are accidental teen overdose statistics. To address this issue we developed FEND (Full Energy, No Drugs), a targeted primary prevention tool for youth delivered via a smartphone app.
Process Between August–November 2019, in Rhode Island, USA, we undertook a FEND pilot, targeting teens aged 14 to 19. The campaign sought to increase participants’ knowledge, attitudes and beliefs (KAB) around substance misuse, addiction and overdose, using pre and post-test surveys to determine effectiveness.
Results A total of 1027 adolescents completed the baseline (pre-test) survey; 599 (58%) completed the post-test survey. Pre and post-test analysis showed increase KAB around perceived risks of substance use (P<0.001); recognizing overdose symptoms (P<0.001); overdose response (P<0.001); counterfeit drugs and medication/alcohol mixing risks (P<0.001); awareness of drug dependence and addiction (P<0.001); and participants were more likely to talk with friends/family about drug risks (P<0.001). The percentage of correct answers between pre and post surveys increased significantly (P<0.001).
Learning Outcomes These results and the information gathered demonstrates the efficacy of a gamified app to engage and inform youth about commonly misused prescription medications and illicit drugs. Given the high ownership of smartphones by young people globally, and the low cost and extensive reach of smartphone apps in delivering content to, and engaging with targeted populations, results from this pilot highlight potential for technology-driven drug prevention and public health campaigns in the future.
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