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Can Video Games Combat Substance Abuse?

Videogame Introduced to Prevent Substance Abuse

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

A county in Delaware is using video games to help prevent drug use among the younger population. The video game hopes to grab the attention of young kids and uses the fun challenge of a video game to raise awareness of the consequences that occur from substance abuse.

Let’s face it: Education for substance abuse prevention is not anything new.  If you grew up in the  80s and 90s like I did, you would remember the “JUST SAY NO” campaign that gained immense popularity.  I still have flashbacks of some of the speakers who would come into my class and share their story.

“Pledge to Just Say No!” the speakers would say.

The “Just Say No” campaign was initiated by Nancy Reagan to discourage children from using illegal recreational drugs. Documentaries were made, after-school specials were seen, and even popular television shows like Diff’rent Strokes and Punky Brewster featured episodes focused on promoting the “Just Say No” campaign slogan.

The problem? While “Just Say No” raised a ton of awareness, there is little evidence that shows that it actually worked. Many criticized the slogan saying it was too simplistic. The reasons people abuse drug vary dramatically, and there is often more complex reasons for why people become addicted to drug use.

Now that “Just Say No” is behind us, we know now that scare tactics alone simply do not work. Countless documentaries were created in the past decade that depict the graphic reality addiction can have. Still, addiction remains an epidemic, and there need to be other ways to prevent more people from choosing to abuse.

As a result, video games are being introduced as a potential solution to help in preventing substance abuse. The game featured is called ‘Heroin Trap.’ and will combine scare tactics with the video game aspect to appeal to the younger crowds. This will be an innovative way of combining a video game with exposing the truth about drug abuse.

The game will be coupled alongside the county’s Heroin Alert Program. The Heroin Alert program shows graphic images of people slumped over, some with needles in their arms. The message remains blunt, and that is exactly what County Executive Tom Gordon wanted.

“We know that scare tactics, alone, don’t work,” Gordon said. “In some ways, the ‘Heroin Trap’ game was like drivers’ education, where police used to take the cars from fatal crashes out to the high schools, to make kids think twice about speeding or drinking and driving. But scare tactics have to be used along with other approaches, and we know that we’re doing that.”

The online program has already reached 60,000 visits, and nearly 36,000 games shave been played. Still, more needs to be done to curb the rise in heroin use in Delaware and across the nation.

In Massachusetts, they are now screening students throughout their school career as part of new legislation. The survey will ask questions about a student’s family at home, risky behavior and their decision making.

The surveys are showing progress in curbing addictive behavior from the start. The surveys help the school identify any mental disorders and substance abuse disorders early on, as trauma can lead many students to self-medicate.

“Kids don’t grow up saying I want to be a heroin addict,” Cindy Juncker, a nurse leader for the Gloucester Public School Systems  said, “It usually happens by mistake.”

Overall, a video game like this is a great way of raising awareness about the dangers of substance abuse. Time will tell if this method will be effective in raising awareness.  If you or someone you know needs help overcoming their substance abuse, do not wait. Call today.

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