5 Things Teachers Need to Know About Teens, and Drugs and Alcohol
It can be hard speaking to teens about drugs and alcohol in a way that isn’t met with eyes roles. It’s even harder as a teacher to understand when it’s your place to speak up. Educators play a huge role in developing teenage students. We can also play a pivotal role in helping these teens stay drug and alcohol-free. Since the world of drugs and alcohol in this country is shifting by the day, we thought we would offer a few tips. In conclusion, here are 5 things teachers need to know about teens, drugs, alcohol, and how you can make a difference.
1. The Drug and Alcohol Landscape Is Always Changing
The drugs available to teens today are stronger, and much more accessible than they were a few decades ago. In most cases, the drugs being used today are several times more potent than those that were being used 30 years ago. Compile that with the recent wave of recreational marijuana legalization across the country, and that has only added to the complexity of the situation. Most noteworthy, is that heroin and prescription drug abuse among teens has been on the rise for several years now. We officially have an opioid epidemic sweeping this country.
2. Drugs and Alcohol Don’t Discriminate
It’s easy to miss the drug or alcohol problems that a student may be struggling with. We can assume that good students can’t possibly be abusing drugs and/or alcohol. In reality, it’s just not that simple. Drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t discriminate and it can’t be predicted based on an individual’s background, income level, family success, or race.
3. Talk About Prevention Early and Often
Due to the ease of consuming digital content via mobile device technology, kids are developing positive ideas about drugs and alcohol at early ages. Especially through access to adult music and television shows. This is definitely one of the 5 things teachers need to know. It is critical that educators begin having preventative conversations with their students before they get to middle school age. Understand that this is not a one-and-done type of conversation. Education should be ongoing because teens will face pressures throughout the rest of their adolescent journey. Research encourages engaging with teens in regular ongoing talks about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. It can reduce the chance of them abusing drugs and/or alcohol by more than 40% (The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 2011).
4. Educate, Don’t Judge
In the past, educational programs geared towards teens primarily focused on the moral and legal consequences of their drug and alcohol use. However, arguments about how drugs will ruin their lives, or how they’ll end up in jail for smoking pot, just don’t resonate and are more likely to be ignored than received by today’s teens. We should focus our efforts on teaching the science behind drug and alcohol abuse. We need to talk to teens about the lasting impact that drugs and alcohol can have on their ability to learn, and the effects that it has on their developing bodies.
5. A Little Bit of Effort Can Make A BIG Difference
If you see something, say something. It’s important that as a teacher, you are not afraid to share your concerns because it can mean life or death. Your role as an educator is to listen, inform, and provide a good example for your students to follow. Creating and/or sponsoring after school programs and clubs are a great way to help. It’s a great way for your teen students to find healthy alternatives to wasting time abusing drugs and/or alcohol.