Second-year students at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy visited West Preston School on Thursday, Oct. 27, to discuss the dangers of substance and prescription drug abuse.
The “Neuroscience Behind Drugs of Abuse” project is part of the WVU School of Pharmacy’s Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) course. In this service learning class, students create and implement health-related activities to meet the health concerns of communities, as well as objectives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 campaign — a program to improve the health of Americans.
WVU student pharmacists in the IPPE course have been working with middle and high schools in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania to present information about substance and prescription drug abuse.
“The purpose of our presentations is to educate middle and high school students about how drugs and other substances can affect them,” WVU student pharmacist Thomas Wissman said. “We are not trying to scare the students, but rather we are trying to give them all the facts and information they need to make informed decisions about trying or using drugs or other substances, and we hope that because of this information, they will make the choice to not use these substances.”
The “Neuroscience Behind Drugs of Abuse” project takes an objective, science and fact-driven approach instead of using just-say-no tactics. The presentation discusses what actually happens to a person’s brain and body from the first use of a drug to repeated use.
The “Neuroscience Behind Drugs of Abuse” project was originally developed by the Duquesne University Mylan School of Pharmacy for high school students. WVU students began taking the presentation to schools in West Virginia and southwestern Pennsylvania in 2014. The WVU students expanded the scope of outreach for the project and developed a presentation for middle school students, “Your Healthy Brain and Body, and How to Keep Substance Abuse out of Your Life.” The presentation was developed to create an interactive environment in order to engage middle school students by using conversation and games.
Wissman and his group members visited West Preston School on Thursday, Oct. 27, and spent the morning speaking with seventh- and eighth-grade students during their science classes.
To demonstrate how a person’s vision and coordination can be affected when under the influence of alcohol, the WVU students distributed vision-distorting glasses and motion-restricting gloves for the students to try on. The West Preston School students were also shown a model of a mouth that shows what can happen to one’s oral health after using methamphetamine.
“These activities were chosen because we feel that if students are given the facts and straightforward information and then see examples of how drugs can affect them, they will make the choice that using drugs and other substances is not the best and healthiest decision for them,” Wissman said.
Although substance and drug abuse is a large problem that can affect anyone at any age, Wissman and his group stressed the importance of making sure that students reach their own opinions, instead of just being told to not do drugs.
“We are recognizing the students as members of the community who capable of making decisions,” Wissman said. “We hope that after seeing and participating in our presentation that students will make the informed decision on their own to not try drugs or other substances.