The opioid crisis is a challenging problem that affects both adults and adolescents, thereby putting families at risk of the negative consequences of prescription opioid misuse. Many adolescents obtain prescription opioids from friends, relatives, or the healthcare system and are vulnerable to intentional misuse as well as accidental poisonings. Additionally, parents often model inappropriate prescription opioid use by sharing unused medications with their children to treat minor injuries, incorrectly storing opioids in the home, or giving their children incorrect dosages. Given that adolescents report parents, especially mothers, as useful resources for information about opioid safety, an opportunity exists to positively impact family communication and practices around opioid safety and the responsible management of prescription medication.
Currently, there are no standard ways to encourage parents to have medication safety conversations with their children. Prior research found that adolescents and parents desired innovative technologies, such as serious games, to facilitate communication about safe and responsible use of medications. “Serious games” are effective digital tools used to promote positive health behaviors and offer new, innovative, and self-directed learning methods for delivering health information. In collaboration with community partners and game developers, our team created an innovative, serious game, MEDSMA℞T: Adventures in PharmaCity, to improve prescription opioid safety for adolescents and their families. This novel and engaging game can be used as an interactive tool to promote and facilitate parent-child conversations about prescription opioid medication safety.
Our goal is to teach adolescents and their families the proper way to handle and store prescription medications and make safe decisions for themselves and others around them. By playing MEDSMA℞T, we hope adolescents and their families will learn ways to keep themselves and others safe by exposing them to real life situations they may face. By utilizing these hands-on tools, we hope MEDSMA℞T and the Family Medication Safety Plan can help families facilitate family communication around medication practices and create personalized medication safety plans.
Family Medication Safety Plan
We believe medications should work for you and work within your family values and parenting style. As a result, our team created the Family Medication Safety Plan, a tool that will help you and your children think about medication use in and outside the home and create goals and rules that align with your family’s values.
Medication and Family Information: This section includes the family members’ name, age, and the medication(s) they are taking.
Dosage and Instructions: Here, the family member can record information about their medication(s) such as reason for use, benefits, side effects etc.
Medication Schedule: The schedule will help the family member remember when to take their medication(s) and allow them to record when they took a medication.
Proper Storage and Disposal: This section allows the family member to know where they should store and dispose of their medication(s).
Positive Communication: Here is where the family member can list who to contact medication professionals for questions as well as what to do for family members who are at school and what do it if an overdoes occurs.
Discussion section: There are write in sections for family members to talk about medication storage, disposal, positive communication, and questions.
We hope a Personalized Family Medication Safety Plan will make family members be more aware of using medications safety and responsibility to achieve positive health outcomes. If you would like more information about the Family Medication Safety Plan, please our please contact our Research Coordinator by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Medication Safety Resources
A Letter to Parents: The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) developed a guide to help parents talk with their children about opioids. We hope this booklet can help parents better understand opioids and start a conversation with their child.
Children’s Safety Network: Children’s Safety Network offers child safety topics specifically for prescription drug misuse and abuse. They also provide strategies to reduce prescription medication abuse among youth.
Dose of Reality for Educators: A Dose of Reality for Educators gives a detailed description of sings to look for if a student is suspected to be at risk of opioid misuse. They also provide helpful tips on what educators can do for their students who are at risk.
Dose of Reality for Parents: Dose of Reality is a website that details the issue of painkiller abuse in Wisconsin. It gives a detailed description of how painkiller abuse can occur, how to prevent this from happening, and what you should do if you think your child is at risk.
Dose of Reality for Siblings and Friends: A Dose of Reality for Siblings and Friends offers a detailed description of how painkiller abuse can occur, how to prevent this from happening, and what you should do if you think your friend or sibling is at risk.
EVERFI: EVERFI encourages schools to provide prescription safety education to their students. Learn how you can encourage your child’s school to offer the Prescription Drug Safety course.
GenerationRx: GenerationRx is an organization dedicated to spreading knowledge about safe medication practice. This website contains three activities you and your teen can do at home to start conversations about prescription drug misuse.
Safe Kids Worldwide: Safe Kids Worldwide offers tips on how to keep kids safe around medications. They encourage you to include medicine safety when childproofing your home.
Scholastic: Scholastic provides information about over the counter (OTC) medication safety for young adults as well as resources for young adults to learn about common medication safety topics in an interactive style. They also provide information for educators and parents.
Up and Away: Up and Away teaches families how to properly store their medications in the house and keep their child safe. They have several free materials and resources you can download to help you learn more about keeping your child safe by storing medications safely.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
The SAMHSA hotline is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Treatment Referral Helpline
If you have questions or concerns about opioid use and safety, please contact your doctor, a school counselor, or refer to www.hhs.gov/opioids.
The NAMI HelpLine is a free service that provides information, resources, and support to people living with a mental health condition, as well as their family members and caregivers.
Common Medication Safety Tips to Know
- Know the generic and brand names and dose(s) of your medicine(s).
- Understand why the medicine is important and why you take it.
- Read your labels and medication pamphlets to learn what you are taking, how and when to take it, side effects, etc.
- Make sure you take your medicine in the correct dose.
- Take your medicines at the right time(s).
- Refill and renew your medications in advance so you do not run out.
Take Your Medicine
- Store your medications(s) in a cool, dry place.
- Lock your medications in a cabinet to keep them away from children and pets.
- Dispose of your medications safely by taking them to a drug take back site, location, or program.
If you cannot get to a drug take back location promptly
- and your medicine is on the FDA flush list, your next best option is to immediately flush these potentially dangerous medicine down the toilet.
- and your medicine is not on the flush list, you should follow these instructions to discard the medicine in your trash at home.
Keep Your Medications Safe
- Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have a problem taking the drug for any reason, including cost.
- Keep a list of all medications you take.
- Know your allergies to medications.
- Report unusual side effects to your doctor or pharmacist.
In the News
A game-based approach to engage teens on medication safety- UWPRC Small Grant Projects: This article discusses Dr. Abraham’s project Assessing the Feasibility of Utilizing a Game-based Participatory Approach to Co-create Personalized Family Opioid Medication Safety Plans. The focus of this study is to see how using a game-based intervention, MEDSMA℞T: Adventures in PharmaCity, can help promote medication safety among family members. It also gives parent a fun way to engage with their child/children in conversations about medication safety.
If you have questions about this research, please contact the Principal Investigator, Dr. Olufunmilola Abraham by email: email@example.com.
If you have questions about the CRoME Lab, our studies, becoming a participant, or want to join the team, please contact the Research Coordinator by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The CRoME Lab’s mission is to develop, implement, and disseminate novel methods for improving medication safety and health behaviors for vulnerable and underserved populations, while training the next generation of researchers. Projects within the CRoME research core share the common goal of applying community-engaged, collaborative, and transdisciplinary approaches to improving medication use and health outcomes for families through education, prevention, and intervention programs. For more information, please visit our website: https://pharmacy.wisc.edu/crometeam/
This study was supported by KL2 grant KL2 TR002374-03 and grant UL1TR002373 to UW ICTR by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, through the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.
This study is also supported by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Prevention Research Center. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Prevention Research Center is a member of the Prevention Research Centers (PRC) Program. It is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cooperative agreement number 1U48DP006383.