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Video Game Trains Doctors to Fight Prescription Drug Abuse

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A new video game helps doctors learn how to determine if patients asking for painkillers truly need them. The game is part of an effort at Northwestern University in Chicago to help physicians fight prescription drug abuse.

The game trains doctors to identify deceptive behavior by patients who are likely to abuse prescription painkillers, according to The New York Times. The technology is similar to what the FBI uses to train agents in interrogation tactics, the article notes.

Doctors are taught to look for warning signs of drug abuse, such as a history of family problems. They also learn to observe signs of nervousness, such as fidgeting, finger-tapping and breaking eye contact.

The game is in its final phase of testing. It is designed for primary care and family doctors, who often are not comfortable evaluating patients’ need for painkillers, according to the newspaper.

“This isn’t something medical students have traditionally been trained for,” said Dr. Michael F. Fleming, whose research was used to design the game. “These are hard conversations to have.”

The game will soon be available online to medical schools and health care providers, for a fee. The game includes about 2,000 statements by a patient. Doctors can select from more than a thousand possible responses. The dialogue is based on interviews with more than 1,000 patients who received opioids for pain.

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