Prescription Drug Misuse on College Campuses: An Interview with Dr. Laura Holt (Part 2 of 2)

Recently, we released Part 1 of our interview with Dr. Laura Holt, a Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of Psychology at Trinity College. Dr. Holt’s research on prescription drug use and misuse on college campuses helped Kognito with the development of Prescription Drugs.

Continue reading for more highlights of Dr. Holt’s research and the increasing need to bring awareness to prescription drug misuse on college campuses.

Part 2: Q&A with Dr. Laura Holt, Associate Professor, Clinical Psychologist, and Prescription Stimulant Researcher 

Dr. Laura Holt, Clinical Psychologist and Charles A. Dana Research Associate Professor of Psychology at Trinity College

Kognito: Do you think the need for teaching organization at the college level has increased due to the distractions of technology and social media?

Dr. Laura Holt:
“We live in a culture where we have very quick access to information. Against that backdrop, I think we should help students understand the inner workings of preparing for an exam or writing a paper. The preparation is a process that has to unfold, and how that process unfolds is arguably as important as getting the [assignment] done. Focusing on the process is in contrast to how we experience so many other things in our lives. Even as a faculty member, I routinely find that my environment isn’t always consistent with the idea of deep, sustained work. That’s why I’ve integrated more discussion about these issues into my courses and, again, not presumed that students know how to organize effectively or minimize distractions.”

Kognito: Do parents have the knowledge of not only drugs and alcohol use, but of the misuse of non-prescribed stimulants? 

Dr. Laura Holt:
“I don’t know how parents are thinking about prescription stimulant misuse. I think if their child has a prescription for a stimulant medication, they might have spoken to their child or to their child’s prescriber about misuse or diversion at some point. However, I’m not sure how often those conversations are happening or if parents are aware of the challenges prescribed students might face. It likely depends on the prescriber in terms of whether they raise these issues with their patients and involve parents in the conversation.”

Kognito: Are schools and administration bringing any more awareness to this as another thing that parents might talk to their children candidly about? 

Dr. Laura Holt:
“I would imagine that communication with parents probably centers around alcohol and marijuana and most likely occurs when a student enrolls. I see potential for more regular outreach with parents about prescription drug misuse, particularly parents of students with stimulant prescriptions, since their child may be pressured to give away or sell their medication.”

Kognito: Can you speak on how your research was used to inform our product, Prescription Drugs? 

Dr. Laura Holt:
“I’m excited that the Prescription Drugs simulation was informed by research I conducted with my colleagues Ty Schepis and Alison Looby focused on students who have prescriptions for stimulant medication. We examined how often they’re approached for their medication and the circumstances under which they are approached. We wanted to ensure that the simulation felt realistic and mirrored students’ actual experiences.

Another key study that informed the simulation was our evaluation of different resistance strategies that students with prescriptions for stimulants could use if approached for their medication. We were interested not only in how well the strategies shut down the request, but also how well the strategies preserved the relationship with the person making the request. So often these requests are made by friends or roommates, people with whom you want to stay on good terms, and you don’t want to be rude or dismissive.”

It was exciting to test these different resistance strategies and to use that knowledge to produce a menu of strategies we can provide to students. The simulation also gives students suggestions if they’re picking a less effective strategy and moves them towards a more effective strategy.”

Kognito: Can you give a few examples of some of the resistance strategies that are successful? 

Dr. Laura Holt:
“Our research found that a successful strategy is to give a brief explanation for why you don’t want to share your medication. For example, ‘I’m afraid if I run out, I won’t have enough of my medication for midterms’ or ‘I’m afraid I won’t be able to focus.’ The explanation could involve prescribers or parents too, something like: ‘if I run out too soon, my prescriber might not give me anymore.’ We think these explanations are more effective than a simple “no” or an excuse because [the student] is giving a reason that is probably not going to be different in two or three months, hopefully discouraging future requests. Another effective strategy is to offer an alternative like ‘I can’t give you my medication, but I can stay up and study with you.’

Often when students are caught off guard and they’re in a pinch, they’ll make an excuse. For example, ‘I can’t talk right now’ or ‘I’ve got to get back to my room’ or ‘I don’t have any extras this month.’ We found that these strategies were less effective. They might shut down the request in the moment, but could lead to future requests. However, an excuse is still better than giving away or selling your medication. ”

Kognito: Are those responses that you and your team were able to relate to students? Or are they responses that students helped to develop on their own? 

Dr. Laura Holt:
“We started by looking at the literature on resistance strategies for offers of alcohol or illicit drugs. Then our research team came up with versions that would work better in the context of requests for prescription stimulants. We weren’t starting from a completely blank slate, but we didn’t want to presume that what worked for turning down alcohol was going to work for [prescription drugs]. Students were integral in helping us to re-engineer these resistance strategies to fit this particular issue.”

Experience the Prescription Drugs simulation 

Prescription Drugs allows students to assess misconceptions about prescription drugs use; learn to safely use, store and dispose of their prescriptions; practice applying refusal skills and explore help-seeking strategies for themselves and friends.

Want to experience the interactive role-play simulation? Take an interactive demo or contact us for more information.

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