Substance Abuse Prevention in Kids

Substance Abuse Prevention: Teacher & Student Resources and A Teacher Resource with 3 Lessons for Students

You might not think your students are facing pressure yet to try drugs and alcohol, but more and more kids and teens are being exposed to illicit substances each year.  Research shows that drug use is most likely to begin during the teenage years—and that people are much more likely to suffer from life-long addictions when their substance abuse starts at an early age.Substance Abuse Prevention Teens

According to a 2012 survey from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 90 percent of US high school students say that they know classmates who use tobacco, alcohol, or illicit drugs during the school day.  Additionally, the students surveyed estimated that roughly 17 percent of all US high school students take part in drug or alcohol use during school hours.

Drug and alcohol education programs often do a great job of portraying the dangers of strangers and gangs, but they may overemphasize the potential of getting drugs from these groups.  For many kids, drug dealers aren’t sketchy, hardened criminals that they have to meet in a back alley somewhere—dealers are their friends.  The Columbia University study also found that 44 percent of high school students say that they know at least one student who sells drugs.  Knowing someone who has access to drugs can make it much harder for students to avoid the pressures to start using.

To help your students understand the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse, it’s important to highlight these three lessons:

1. It’s Okay to Say No—

Saying no to a friend who wants you to “loosen up” or “have fun” with drugs is much harder than saying no to a stranger who’s trying to sell for a profit.  Adolescence is fraught with self-esteem issues as students try to figure out where they fit in and seek approval from their peers.  Even when students don’t want to try drugs or alcohol, it might be tough to say no and risk being outcast from the group.

2. It’s Not Always a “Yes” or “No” Question—

As you teach your students that it’s okay to say no to an offer of drugs or alcohol, remind them that peer pressure isn’t always persistent or adamant.  Sometimes, peer pressure is an internal force that comes from seeing that everyone else is doing it and wanting to fit in.  An emphasis on “Just say no” education can be detrimental to students because it places the blame solely on the person offering the drugs—which puts the student in a role of confident heroism when he or she shuts the pressuring bully down.  In reality, many kids start doing drugs without anyone ever formally offering the substances to them or asking if they’d like to try.  They instead seek out the drugs because of the internal pressure they’ve placed upon themselves.

3. One Time Can Kill You—

Many students who give in to peer pressure and try drugs or alcohol do so thinking that one time won’t hurt them.  Unfortunately, doing some drugs just once—or drinking too much alcohol in one sitting—can result in death or long-term damage to the student’s mind or body.  Emphasize how harmful illegal substances can be by explaining the effects and dangers of various drugs.  It’s essential for students to understand that one wrong decision could be one wrong decision too many.

October is National Substance Abuse Prevention Month and it’s the perfect time to educate your students on the dangers and risks associated with illegal drug and alcohol abuse.  For more information and a list of resources to help reach your students, check out this official page from the White House and this guide from PBS.

More Resources:

32 Substance Abuse Prevention Writing Ideas for Kids

Parents Guide to Talking to Their Kids about Addiction

How to Talk to your Kids About Substance Abuse