NIDA for Teens: The Science Behind Drug Abuse
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Teen Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Videos

About Choose Your Path

The Choose Your Path activity includes two interactive videos that allow teens to assume the role of the main character and make decisions about whether to abuse certain prescription drugs, such as Xanax or Adderall. After each scene, the viewer selects what the main character will do next and sees the results of that decision. The videos illustrate realistic scenarios in which teens might be confronted with a decision about whether to abuse prescription drugs.

How It Works

First, a video clip sets up the scenario. At the end of each scene, viewers are asked to choose between two different paths. After viewers make their selection, the chosen scenario plays out. The video can be restarted to explore the outcomes of different decisions.

These questions can accompany your discussion after watching the Choose Your Path videos:

  1. What would you do if faced with the same situations as the characters?
  2. What are safe ways for the main characters to react to the stressful situations they face?
  3. What are the dangers of taking a friend’s or family member’s prescription drugs?

Choose Your Path - BFF or the Ex?

Depending on which path you take in this video, a teenager is either offered Xanax or Vicodin by a friend.

Xanax is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant prescribed to people for anxiety and sleeping problems. CNS depressants slow down the normal activity in the brain; when abused they can have dangerous consequences. Most CNS depressants affect the brain in the same way—they enhance the activity of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring chemical in the brain that sends messages between cells. GABA works by slowing down brain activity. Although different classes of CNS depressants work in unique ways, they ultimately increase GABA activity, which produces a drowsy or calming effect.

Vicodin is an opioid prescribed to people to treat pain. They are often prescribed by doctors after surgery or to help patients with severe acute or chronic pain. Opioid prescriptions are also known as “painkillers” or “pain meds.” Opioids affect the brain the same way as illicit opiates like heroin. Studies have shown that if taken exactly as prescribed by a medical professional, opioids are safe, can manage pain effectively, and rarely cause addiction. The problem occurs when they are abused. Opioids attach to specific proteins called opioid receptors, which are found in the brain, spinal cord, gastrointestinal tract, and other organs. When opioid drugs attach to these receptors in certain brain regions, they can diminish the perception of pain. Opioids can produce drowsiness, cause constipation, and, depending on the amount taken, affect a person's ability to breathe properly. In fact, taking just one large dose could cause severe breathing complications or death. Repeated abuse of opioids can lead to addiction—compulsive drug seeking and abuse despite known harmful consequences.

Play the video to find out what might happen if someone takes Xanax or Vicodin not prescribed for them.

Choose Your Path - The Big Test

In this video, a teenager must decide whether to abuse Adderall when he is preparing for a test. Adderall is a stimulant medication prescribed to people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Stimulants increase activity in the body, such as increasing a person’s heart rate and the release of dopamine in the brain. When abused, this fast release of dopamine can increase your chances of becoming addicted. Stimulant abuse can be extremely dangerous. Taking high doses of a stimulant can cause an irregular heartbeat, dangerously high body temperatures, and the potential for heart failure or seizures. For some people, taking high doses of certain stimulants, or repeatedly abusing them, can lead to feelings of hostility or paranoia.

Play the video to find out what might happen if someone takes Adderall not prescribed for them.