Lesson: Straight Talk on Prescription Drugs

First published 2010. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.

Use the lesson and student worksheet below to reinforce comprehension of the student article “Straight Talk on Prescription Drugs.” 


Dear Teacher:

This Heads Up installment highlights the unique one-on-one interview I had with a teen reporter on the timely issue of prescription-drug abuse.

Although overall teen drug use continues to decline, levels of prescription-drug abuse remain unacceptably high among teens, according to NIDA’s latest Monitoring the Future survey. Your students may mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safer to abuse than illegal ones because a doctor prescribes them. While prescription drugs are beneficial when used properly, teens need to know how powerfully addictive and dangerous these medications can be when abused. They also need to know where they can get reliable, science-based answers to their questions.

My discussion with teen reporter Marie French highlights the risk of addiction to prescription drugs and the negative effects addiction can have on a person’s health, family, and friends. The student worksheet contains additional helpful information to answer other questions teens might have regarding prescription medications.

We hope you share this important article and lesson with your students and encourage them to use the facts they learn to make smart choices.


Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse


In This Installment:

  • Student article: Q&A with Dr. Nora D. Volkow discussing the dangers of prescription-drug abuse among teens. 
  • Student worksheet: Students apply factual information regarding prescription medications to respond to critical-thinking questions. 


Lesson Plan and Worksheet

Lesson Overview: The student article and this accompanying lesson/student worksheet should be used together to encourage students to ask questions about prescription-drug abuse and apply the facts to discuss why this can be dangerous.

Alignment with National Standards

•  Science (NSES): Life Science: Regulation and behavior; Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and community health
•  Life Skills (McREL): Self-Regulation; Thinking and Reasoning


Student Article

Discussion Questions: Choose from the questions below to guide discussion before and after reading “Straight Talk on Prescription Drugs.”

Before-Reading Discussion: Explain to students that the article is based on an interview conducted by a teen reporter. Discuss the following questions:

  • Why is it important for teens to ask questions? How might answers to questions from another teen be helpful to you?
  • What is a myth? How are myths generated and perpetuated?
  • Think of sources where you might go to seek out information about drugs. Are these sources reliable or not?
  • Have you heard information about prescription drugs that you think might be a myth? How would you find out if the information is true? What are some safe, reliable sources for answers?

After-Reading Discussion:

  • What surprised you most about prescription-drug abuse?
  • What effects of prescription drugs were unknown to you?
  • Did the article change your opinion about prescription drugs and how they should be used?
  • What other questions would you ask Dr. Volkow?

Writing Prompts:

  • What do you think are the responsibilities of each of the following groups in combating teen prescription-drug abuse: parents, doctors, teens?
  • What actions do you think teens can take to keep themselves safe from prescription-drug abuse?


Student Worksheet

Before-Worksheet Discussion: When you are prescribed a drug by your doctor, what information are you given on how to take the medication? Do you always follow those guidelines exactly?

Worksheet: Have students read the Q&A, and then answer the critical-thinking questions.

Click here to download and print a copy of the Student Worksheet (PDF)
Click here for the Student Worksheet online (HTML)


After-Worksheet Activity: 

Oral Argument: Have students choose one critical-thinking question and present a persuasive oral argument on the topic.


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