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Teens the target of new app designed to prevent drug use

Rush to prevent teen drug use in schools
Date Published:
11 Feb 2015
Contact person:
Marion Downey
0401 713850

Australian researchers have worked with local high school students to create a unique interactive drug education game for Australian teenagers.

Called Pure Rush, the game is targeted at students in Years 8 to 10 and aims to inform adolescents about the potential harms of cannabis, methamphetamine, hallucinogens and pills such as ecstasy. The aim of the game is to avoid (jump over) illicit drugs to reach a music festival in as fast a time as possible.

Researchers from the Centre of Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS), a consortium led by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at UNSW, interviewed over 100 high school students in five schools across Sydney and Perth to learn what game features they enjoy. These were combined with evidence-based drug prevention strategies to create Pure Rush.

The gamediffers from the handful of existing drug education games in its use of  the popular “race” genre rather than role playing; its emphasis on interactive learning, with characters experiencing the effects of any illicit drugs they collide with (e.g. cannabis slows them down); and its inclusion of Australian landscapes and animals.

Pure Rush also reminds teens they are in the majority if they choose not to take illicit drugs. The latest survey of Australian secondary school students in 2011showed 7.7% of students aged 12-17 years had used an illicit substance in the past month, while 15.6% had used one in their lifetime.

Director of CREMS and NHMRC Principal Research Fellow, Professor Maree Teesson, said drug education is most effective when it is active and engaging.

 “Educational games like Pure Rush are an exciting development because they can engage students who don’t respond to traditional drug education.

“Research has shown that most 12-17 year old Australians do not use illicit drugs, but many adolescents will be faced with a situation where they will have to make a choice about using cannabis, or ecstasy, or other drugs.

“This game is all about letting teenagers know there are potential harms associated with illicit drug use and that if they choose to abstain, they’re in the majority.”

Pure Rush is free and optimised for play as an app, available through Google Playand iTunes, and can also be played online. The game has four levels, takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete and is suitable to be incorporated into a high school lesson plan. Drug education booklets to accompany the game have also been developed for students, parents and teachers.

Pure Rushis just one of a number of drug prevention resources developed by CREMS. To view additional resources please visit http://comorbidity.edu.au/cre-resources.

The game was built by developers 2and2, and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health.