Video Game Helps Docs Spot Rx Addicts

By Valerie Tejeda 05/29/12

Researchers hope a new game will teach doctors to determine whether a demanding patient really needs those meds.

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Game over for patients looking for a high
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A new video game could help doctors fight prescription drug abuse. Pulling from technology used by the FBI to train agents in tactics for interrogation, the interactive program is designed to train doctors to identify those who are abusing drugs such as powerful painkillers, teaching them to look for warning signs including nervousness, breaking eye contact, fidgeting and finger-tapping, and to examine family history. In the video game, an actor's voice begs for a prescription, making pleas such as “Every morning I wake up in pain,” and “Nothing works except pills.” The voice then gets more and more demanding and insistent as the player attempts to determine the patient's motives. The game is based on the research of Dr. Michael F. Feinberg of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and the dialogue draws from interviews he conducted with over 1,000 patients taking opioids for pain management. “We have 95% of what a patient and doctor would say or do,” says Feinberg. The game is in the final phase of testing and will be available online for health care professionals and medical school students. “This isn’t something medical students have traditionally been trained for,” Dr. Fleming says. “These are hard conversations to have.”

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Entertainment journalist and author Valerie Tejeda spends her days reporting on books, television, and all things pertaining to pop culture, and spends her nights writing novels for teens. Her stories have appeared on a variety of different publications, including but not limited to: VanityFair, MTV, The Huffington Post, TeenVogue, She Knows, Latina, The Fix,, Cosmopolitan, and more. You can find Valerie on Linkedin and Twitter.