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What Schools Can Do to Teach Children About Drugs

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According to data gathered by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) in 2012, about 6% of American high school seniors use marijuana every day. NIDA also claims that though teen drug abuse decreased during the 1990s, the rate of teen drug abuse began to increase again during the past decade. Because of the prevalence of teen drug abuse, it is important to educate children about the dangers of substance abuse.

Drug Education Courses

One obvious way to teach children about drugs in school is to implement mandatory education courses. Each course unit should teach kids about the at-risk behaviors associated with substance abuse, the consequences of drug abuse, and possible treatment options.

Of course some schools may face the problem of not having room in their curriculum to add substance abuse prevention courses. However, even a week-long unit added to a student’s health education course could help a child learn about the dangers of turning to substance abuse. Lessons on what a student should do if their friends have drug problems and where to turn for help are good examples of what to include in mini units on drug abuse education. See the list below for other possible topics:

  • Peer Pressure and Substance Abuse
  • Physical Effects of Drug Abuse
  • Teen Alcoholism
  • Substance Abuse Counseling
  • Impact of Drug Abuse on the Community
  • Information on Drug Rehab Facilities
  • Dangers of Meth, Heroin, and Crack Abuse

Class Assignments

The importance of drug abuse prevention can also be introduced into health and science classes in the form of assignments designed to make students read and write about drug abuse. For example, a health education teacher might require each student to write an essay about drug abuse, a particular drug, or a drug-related problem in society. The essay assignment would force students to do research on various types of drugs, their effects on the human body, and the psychological and social effects of abusing drugs. See the list below for examples of possible essay topics.

  • What Can I Do to Stay Drug Free?
  • What is a Drug Treatment Facility?
  • Facts and Myths About Opioid Addiction
  • The Effects of Stimulant Drugs on the Central Nervous System
  • Crack Cocaine Addiction
  • What are Methamphetamine’s?

Prevention Days

In addition to drug education courses, many school-age children may benefit from participating in drug abuse prevention days at school. On these designated days, students should both watch and participate in games, skits, videos, and other forms of expression that teach lessons about drug prevention. For example, students could gather at special assemblies and watch skits and plays in which actors demonstrate possible ways to say no to peer pressure, report substance abuse problems, and help strive toward making the community a safer place with less drug-related problems. Students could also take trivia quizzes that test their knowledge of specific drugs and substance abuse. Teachers should make the quizzes fun by asking real-world questions to which students can relate. Allowing students to compete against each other for prizes may also help to boost student participation. For example, students could be split into teams to build team morale and support one another. Group participation also helps students to converse with each other and learn from one another without the added social anxiety of working in larger groups.

Guest Speakers

Schools should invite guest speakers to come into classrooms and talk with kids about drugs. For example, a local drug task force member could visit the school and talk about drug-related problems in the area. Policemen could also realistically talk to kids about the illegality and possible consequences of drug use/drug dealing in the criminal justice system. If anything, uniformed officers may serve as a scare tactic to make students understand the severity of becoming involved with drugs.

Electronic Games and Interaction

Several agencies provide online learning tools for adults and children. Such games can adequately teach players the importance of staying drug free. Interactive games may even provide real-life examples and scenarios that both students and adults can relate to. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is one such agency that educates students about substance abuse.

Drug-Free Clubs

Start a drug-free club at school so that students can interact with their peers and team up with them to discuss prevention strategies. As a club, students could participate in making and distributing pamphlets that warn about the dangers of drug abuse. These pamphlets could be distributed to other students in the school, but also distributed to people in the community as well. Students might also enjoy making t-shirts and posters that encourage those around them to stay drug free. Host a contest in which students compete to produce the best posters and/or t-shirts for the club.

Conferences with At-Risk Students

Guidance counselors and teachers in school systems are often the best at judging which students show at-risk behaviors for drug abuse. For example, a student who has poor school attendance and a negative attitude in class may be at risk of dropping out of school, befriending people who have a negative impact on their development, and experimenting with drugs. As a way to combat this type of behavior, school administrators should make sure that at-risk students are mentored by a guidance counselor or respectable teacher who can talk with them about the problems associated with drug abuse. As a result of these conferences and therapy sessions, students may find a positive adult role model in which they can confide. One-on-one conferences may be best for some students, but working with students in small peer groups might also be beneficial.

Inspirational Speakers

Perhaps there is no better way to inform students of the negative effects of drug abuse than to put them in conversation with people who have already suffered drug-related problems. The impact of drug abuse affects every nationality, race, and both genders across the entire range of socioeconomic groups. Teachers and school systems should invite former substance abusers into classrooms to share their stories. Allow each speaker to give a short talk about their journey into the world of drug abuse, as well as how they were able to get help and change their lifestyle.


National Institute on Drug Abuse: DrugFacts: High School and Youth Trends