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Drug Prevention In School

Drugs are among the greatest risks and threats to the health, wellness, and performance of the youth. Although the average age of first time marijuana use seems to have dropped to 11 years, research shows that 65% of high school seniors abused drugs during a trial period lasting 30 days in 1985. In the same period, 30% of them abused marijuana while 15% reported snorting cocaine. These figures have not been improving since them.

In most cases, drug abuse and addiction often tend to lead to a variety of physical problems, declines in educational productivity and achievement, as well as long standing emotional damage. This is why drug prevention in school is so important.

In particular, efforts to overcome drug abuse needs to happen in schools - because the environment provides a major influence in the transmission of information, educations, standards, and values to children.

In this guide, you will learn more about drug abuse and addiction among children and the youth, the reasons behind such abuse, the effects arising from it, and what schools can and should do to deal with the problem. Read on to find out more:

Understanding Drug Prevention In Schools

In most cases, drug prevention in school involves a variety of school-based alcohol and drug prevention programs that happen on school campuses or during official school hours.

Since alcohol and drug use is heavily influenced by the perceived norms and attitudes of peers, it is imperative that these prevention approaches remain open so that every student can access them.

That said, drug prevention in school is usually delivered in the form of afterschool, extended day, and school day programs by community-based facilitators, parents, school personnel, and other stakeholders from the community.

They can be mandatory - such as when the programs are provided in the form of health education classes - or voluntary when they come as drop-in or elective afterschool programs.

Irrespective of the compulsion to attend, it is imperative that approaches to drug prevention in school include teaching the students how to involve families, improve generic life skills, and resist negative influences from their peers. They should also provide opportunities for the students to involve themselves in more positive experiences with other people in the school as well as in the community at large.

To ensure that drug prevention in school works effectively, it is imperative that the students learn how to address problems and issues through social problem solving skills, communication skills, emotional awareness, and self-control. This usually works at the elementary school level.

For older students, the programs should seek to improve their communication skills, drug resistance skills, assertiveness, and self-efficacy. When more of these students learn such skills, they will be better able to forgo any temptations to start abusing intoxicating and mind altering substances.

Either way, all programs tailored at drug prevention in school need to be long term in nature and include remedial or booster sessions so that their impact does not decay with time.

Similarly, they need to be implemented over the right number of hours - a minimum of, for instance, 11 hours. In case the problem is rampant in a community, the programs need to be implemented alongside other community-based prevention strategies to effectively reduce such risk factors as the availability of and easy access to alcohol and other intoxicating substances while also promoting societal norms that discourage underage drug use and drinking.

Irrespective of how the programs are formatted, however, you need to ensure that you determine:

  • The extent to which individuals are participating in school-based drug prevention services
  • The extent to which interactive teaching techniques are being used
  • The extent to which participants are actively engaged in the prevention programs
  • The extent to which the program is being delivered as planned and intended
  • The extent to which the program is being delivered by qualified and competent professional facilitators
  • The extent to which the program is teaching the students new skills they can use to avoid alcohol and drug use

Substance Abuse Among The Youth

According to recent statistics, drug abuse and addiction in the United States is one of the highest of all industrialized nations. In fact, research shows that at least 61% of all seniors in high school have used intoxicating, mind altering, and addictive substances at least once in their lives. Over the last decade, also, the percentage of underage drug use and alcohol consumption nearly tripled among students before they reached sixth grade.

In particular, alcohol (which is an illegal substance for minors) represents the most serious problem of all drugs - over and above amphetamines, cocaine, and marijuana. As such, the average age when most young people begin drinking alcohol is at 12 years while statistics show people between the ages of 12 and 20 drink 11% of all the alcohol that is consumed in the US.

In all American communities - urban, suburban, and rural - there is also a high incidence of illicit drug use. Although more males tend to abuse drugs and alcohol than do females, the gap in between these two populations has been dwindling over the past few years.

Why Underage Drug Abuse Occurs

Other studies show that peer pressure plays one of the largest roles in causing those below the legal drinking age to start using drugs. After children graduate from elementary school and enroll into junior high, it becomes even more important for them to feel accepted by their peers.

At this critical age, teens seem to either be unable or unwilling to successfully resist pressure from their peers when they are confronted by situations involving substance abuse.

However, some young people will start taking drugs because of their constant exposure and ready access to intoxicating chemicals. They are also prompted to start substance abuse early as a result of how the mass media - including television, movies, and ads - depicts liquor, pills, and cigarettes. Others may start as a result of experimentation, low self-esteem, and rebelliousness.

In other situations, the young may be tempted to get into drug use due to the need to experience simple pleasure. After they try drugs, they may feel so good that they keep using. Over time, however, they may find that they are unable to feel the same pleasure they used to in such enjoyable activities as sports and hobbies.

Effects Of Substance Abuse

Intoxicating and mind altering substances produce a variety of negative effects - including distortion to sensations, perceptions, and memory. For instance, amphetamines and cocaine might give you a false sense of high performance. Designer drugs on the other hand - which comprise chemical variations of various substances - may also lead to brain damage or, in the most extreme of incidents, sudden death.

If you are addicted to drugs and use them on a frequent basis, you might also start arriving late to your classes or even skip school entirely. In fact, regular marijuana abusers have been shown to be twice as likely as non-users to get lower grades. Similarly, abusing this drug might cause you to develop emphysema, bronchitis, pharyngitis, and sinusitis within 12 months of beginning use.

Overall, drug experimentation particularly from a young age might lead to dependence. Once you become dependent, you might have to support your habit by selling drugs to your peers, sexually prostituting yourself, and/or stealing.

Drug Prevention And Interventions In School

Early drug prevention in school should include early intervention activities that characterize the program in the school in question. In particular, school administrators and teachers should try and determine the full extent of the substance abuse problem within the school before they initiate any new intervention program.

They can accomplish this goal through anonymous surveys and questionnaires of the students as well as by consulting with local law enforcement officers. After that, they need to make collaborate plans with concerned community groups, treatment agencies, school boards, and parents to ensure that the programs are successful.

According to the US Department of Education, school officials also need to establish clear and consistently enforced drug use policies in school that specify the various substance offences as well as the consequences that will befall those who are apprehended breaking the rules - such as getting suspended, expelled or reported to the police. Additionally, they should implement stringent security measures to completely eliminate the drug problem from the school grounds and all school functions.

In particular, the most effective programs for drug prevention in school should come in the form of a comprehensive curriculum running from kindergarten all the way through to grade 12. Additionally, appropriate training should be provided to teachers so that they can effectively participate in the drug prevention programs.

In general, most school systems tend to use two approaches in the prevention of drug abuse and addiction in their environments. For starters, they may emphasize discipline, with actions that school personnel can take when they encounter drug peddling, possession, or abuse in the school. Secondly, they can provide education by instructing their students about intoxicating substances as well as helping them develop the attitudes and skills that will ensure they don't start abusing them.

The Role Of Principals And Teachers

Principals and teachers exercise significant influence on the opinions, knowledge, and attitudes of their students. As such, they can complement all efforts made towards drug prevention in school by incorporating a variety of prevention strategies in their subjects at all grade levels.

For instance, teachers can plan and execute activities that require all students to learn how to consider several options before they make any decision. Through this classroom practice, the students will be better able to identify their options whenever they face situations involving substance abuse.

According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), there are many different ideas and tips that can be incorporated into school curricula by teachers/principals to ensure students don't start abusing drugs.

For instance, teachers can inform their students about the dangers of drug abuse and why they disapprove such behavior. This is because when they remain quiet about the subject, the students will get the impression that they are not concerned or that they approve of substance abuse. The teachers can go a step further by informing their students that they will report them in case they are found in possession or under the influence of intoxicating and mind altering substances.

When teachers believe that a student might be abusing drugs, they also need to take positive action to stop the behavior. Some of the signs and symptoms of recent drug abuse include but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Changes in school performance and attendance
  • Dilated pupils
  • Dramatically changed appearance, including dirty hair
  • Falling grades
  • Red eyes
  • Reduced motivation
  • Short attention span
  • Slurred speech
  • Uncompleted assignments

When they suspect drug abuse, therefore, they need to get in touch with the school committee and other appropriate authorities to report the matter. The teachers should also express their concern to both the affected student and to their parents - as well as citing the behavioral and physical changes they have observed.

On their part, school principals need to support all intervention strategies for drug prevention in school. They should, for instance, provide additional opportunities so that teachers can congregate to discuss substance abuse and come up with plans to fight and eliminate the problem.

Principals should also inform the students at the school and their parents that they have authorized the teachers to communicate any concerns they have. Where possible, they should also ensure that there are professionals at the school to provide drug counseling and other school-based drug prevention education to the students. Last but not least, they need to follow up with students and their parents after the intervention of other school personnel to ensure that the education and prevention strategies provided are working.

Since young people spend so much time in the school environment, it is imperative that drug prevention in school becomes a major focus of all intervention strategies. Implementing prevention programs in school is one of the most effective ways to reduce and completely eliminate the risks that the youth will engage in early use or suffer delinquency in the future as a result of drugs. By so doing, the students will get the knowledge, tools, skills, and education they need to prevent themselves from getting involved in drugs.

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