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Generation Rx: The Science Behind Prescription Drug Abuse

Think that a prescription medication must be safer than a “street drug”? Think again. Investigate the epidemic rise of prescription drug abuse and use science to debunk commonly held misconceptions regarding this phenomenon.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

We are Generation Rx.

As a society, we have become more and more “pharmaceuticalized”. We expect a quick fix for almost any medical problem. We refer to ample amounts of medical information (or mis-information) online, sometimes without the guidance of a health professional. We are taking prescription and over-the-counter medications at unprecedented rates, and there are benefits to this phenomenon, including in many cases, improved disease treatment. Sadly, a darker consequence has also emerged: the epidemic rise of injuries and fatalities due to prescription drug abuse.

This course uses science to investigate the prevalence, dangers, and misperceptions regarding this growing health problem. Using a myth-busting design, we will investigate the biology behind both therapeutic and illicit drug action and tie that biology to the real dangers of abusing prescription drugs. Additionally, we will explore societal influences on drug-taking behaviors and identify best medication-taking practices for our benefit as well as others’.

All lectures and instructional materials developed for this course by the Ohio State University are licensed under the Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit

Course Syllabus

Module One: What is Generation Rx?
Module Two: Myth - Everyone else is doing it, so why shouldn't I?
Module Three: Myth - Prescription drugs must be safer than street drugs.
Module Four: Myth - It is only a problem if I'm trying to get high.
Module Five: Myth - Prescription drugs cannot be addictive.
Module Six: Where to go from here...

Recommended Background

None. However, we will investigate the basic science of drug action, and therefore a high school level-understanding of biology is recommended.

Suggested Readings

To be assigned during the class

Course Format

The class will consist of short lecture videos (5-10 minutes), each typically investigating the statistics and basic science underlying the prescription drug abuse epidemic.  Supplementary readings will also be assigned and may be used in online peer discussions.


Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

Other than an Internet connection, what resources will I need for this class?


What is the coolest thing I'll learn if I take this class?

Drugs are amazing chemicals with the potential to produce great benefit when used properly and great harm when misused.