CD-ROM warns junior high kids about drugs

Under pressure to combat drug trafficking in the nation's heartland, Iowa has tapped a Fairfax, Va.-based company to develop a CD-ROM to help educate seventh- and eighth-graders in six Midwestern states about the harmful effects of illegal drugs.

The program, being developed by Universal Systems and Technology Inc. (Unitech), will consist of a 90-minute, animated game on a CD-ROM in which students are placed in a decision-making position to make a series of choices regarding drug use.

The company is working with the Iowa Governor's Alliance on Substance Abuse and the Midwest High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area in Kansas City, Mo., to develop the CD-ROM, which focuses on methamphetamines.

"The Midwest has been deemed a high trafficking area for methamphetamines and the government [side] has been adamant that we focus on that," said Steve Wilson, Unitech program manager in Camp Dodge, Iowa.

The program starts out on a game board, and students roll virtual dice that lead them to interact with animated characters and learn about the harmful effects and consequences of drug use. The user makes life decisions based on scenarios that include students under arrest, notifying their parents from a correctional facility, hiring a lawyer or raising money for a legal defense. "The toughest thing has been getting the actual dialogue written [for the scenarios]...but this will help to educate [students] on the effects of drugs," Wilson said.

The CD-ROM will be released next year for the spring semester and provided free of charge to schools in Iowa, thanks to a grant received by the Iowa Governor's Alliance, as well as in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas.

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