Online drug education more effective in female than male students

October 2017
Stapinski, L., Reda, B., Newton, N. C., Lawler, S., Rodriguez, D., Chapman, C. & Teesson, M. Development and evaluation of “Pure Rush”: An interactive online game for drug prevention. Drug and Alcohol Review, Accepted 11th August 2017.

An online drug education game called Pure Rush developed by researchers from NDARC’s Centre for Research Excellence in Mental Health and Substance Use (CREMS) increases girls’ knowledge about drugs but has proved less effective with male students.

Pure Rush the first online drug education game to be evaluated by a randomised controlled trial was developed in consultation with 115 students aged 15–17 years.  Following feasibility and testing of a prototype of the game 281 students aged 13–16 years were randomly allocated to receive a lesson involving Pure Rush or an active control lesson. The lessons were compared in terms of learning outcomes, lesson engagement and future intentions to use illicit drugs.

Both the Pure Rush and the active control were associated with significant knowledge increase from pre to post-test. Among females, multi-level mixed-effects regression showed knowledge gain was greater in the Pure Rush condition compared to control.

The majority of students, and in particular males, reported that gameplay enhanced enjoyment of the drug education lesson. Student’s knowledge of drug-related harms increased following both the Pure Rush and control lesson. Among females but not males, the lesson enhanced by Pure Rush game-play resulted in greater pre-to post-test knowledge acquisition compared to the control condition.

“The finding of greater knowledge gains following the game-enhanced lesson for females but not males was contrary to hypotheses,” writes study lead investigator Dr Lexine Stapinski “Based on the increased investment and motivation for gameplay reported by males, we hypothesised that the Pure Rush lesson would be most effective for males; however this was not borne out by the data.”