Lesson Plan Guide - Prescription For Disaster

By Matt Andrews

CONTENT AREAS: Choose your path and Prepare for your path

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2-2: Students develop awareness of their social system of support and constraints, and choose associations and behaviors that align with their values, goals and well-being.
3-1: Students prepare academically to transition to life after high school. This includes preparation for Common Core academic standards for reading.


  • Read “Prescription for Disaster” article from Student Paths.
  • Write about their understanding of prescription drug use and abuse.
  • Engage in large-group discussion of perceived benefits and risks of prescription drugs.
  • Reflect upon healthy activities and supportive people in their lives, and identify resources and strategies to reduce likelihood of drug abuse.


  • American School Counselor Association Standard:
    PS:C1.8 – Learn about the emotional and physical dangers of substance use and abuse.
  • Common Core State Standard:
    ELA-Literacy.RH.11012.9 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


No Prior Knowledge is necessary, but the following websites will familiarize instructors with the issues around current prescription drug abuse.

Dr. Len Paulozzi of Brandeis University explains some of the indicators of the epidemic of prescription drug abuse:

National Institute on Drug Abuse shares 30-year trends in alcohol, tobacco, and drug use:

Chart of commonly abused prescription drugs:


Read article (5 minutes)

Distribute Student Paths publication and instruct students to read article, “Prescription for Disaster.”

Large-Group Discussion about article(10 minutes):

The academic goal of discussion is to demonstrate for students how a critical reader considers sources and authority for the information in text. This lesson is also time for instructors to show students how to think critically about the risks of drug use and abuse. Allow 10 minutes to discuss the article so students may ask and answer questions within the larger group. The discussion may digress, but the primary question for every student to understand is: What is the source and credibility of the information presented?

To begin the discussion, draw student attention to the sidebar “Not a Smart Move” that quotes Dr. Alain Joffe, “We don’t really know what long-term effects these ADHD medications will have on the still-developing brains of adolescents who do not have ADHD. We do know they can have significant side effects, which is why they are limited to use with a prescription.”

First, ask the group to clarify what information is given to the reader: What does Dr. Joffe say? What does this mean? What are “long-term” and “significant side effects”?

Next, ask students to explain the meaning of “MD” and “MPH.” The conversation should begin with Doctor of Medicine and Master of Public Health and end with a critical understanding of what expertise these degrees entail.

Continue to ask critical questions that examine the authority of the source, Dr. Joffe, and challenge the students to understand fully what kind of expertise a doctor may gain from being:
“Director, Student Health and Wellness Center at Johns Hopkins University” and
“Former Chairman American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Substance Abuse.”
Why do you think the doctor does not know the long-term effects of medications?

Direct student attention to the article, “Prescription for Disaster,” and ask: What sources of information were used by the author to make claims about prescription drugs?

Answers: Drugfree.org and Met Life.

When Drugfree.org is mentioned, read this quote: “The mission of The Partnership at Drugfree.org is to help parents prevent, intervene in and find treatment for drug and alcohol use by their children.”

Ask: What kind of slant or bias could be present in any of this information?
Answer: Drugfree.org is likely to provide evidence of the dangers of drug use and advice for treatment. It may seem obvious, but remind students that another source, such as a pharmaceutical company might downplay negative effects of misuse.

When Met Life is mentioned, ask if students are familiar with Met Life, and remind them that it is a life insurance company. Many students may be unfamiliar with life insurance, investment management, and other employee benefits. Briefly introduce Met Life to pique student curiosity, and then ask: Why would Met Life be interested in the study of adolescent prescription drug abuse?

Answer: An actuary for Met Life would analyze the financial consequences of a risk, and use mathematics to predict the likelihood of future events. The cost a person pays for life insurance is determined by calculating risk factors that are more likely to lead to tragedy. Prescription drug abuse is a significant factor in accidental deaths and could be of interest for life insurance policies.

Segue from the point about high risk and recent increase of drug-induced deaths into a conversation about what public policy is doing to prevent the problem.

Write Personal Strategies to Avoid Drug Abuse (5 minutes):

This final section of the lesson is for students to make a personal connection to strategies they may use to avoid problems with drugs. Instruct students to write freely on notebook paper everything they know about prescription drug abuse.

First, make this a challenge to see who knows the most about the problem, but there is no need for students to share what they write.

Second, ask students to write a few strategies that they use everyday to stay healthy and avoid drug problems. A few students may share answers that should include things such as staying active, maintaining positive friendships, and avoiding negative influences.

Conclude the lesson by reminding students that we educate ourselves so that we better understand the problems in life and develop strategies to avoid problems all together.



Prescription for disaster

About the Author

Matt Andrews