Addiction to drugs and alcohol is one of the major problems affecting young people around the world. For many, the problem starts when they are quite young, as school students are often introduced to addictive substances by their friends and peers. By the time these children reach adulthood, they are already addicts and have been for quite a few years.
Individuals who start substance abuse during their teenage years are also far more at risk of becoming severely addicted to these substances in adulthood. Such an addiction can harm a person’s mental and physical health, relationships, and job performance. Substance abuse can also lead to self-harm, violence, and criminal behavior.
Drug Prevention In School
Mentioned above are some of the most important reasons why this problem needs to be addressed by the school authorities. Teachers and educators can no longer turn a blind eye to the problem of substance abuse among students. One of the best ways to address the issue is by introducing a school-based drug prevention program.
Before the new school year has begun, here are some things you can do to ensure that your drug prevention efforts will be a success. None of the steps mentioned below are easy, and they will require dedicated practice and much willpower. However, it is necessary for educators to adopt these practices if they intend to get their message across to those youngsters who are most at risk of substance abuse.
1. Practice Rigorous Authenticity
If you want students to follow the advice that you dispense, they first need to be able to trust you. Unconditional trust isn’t easy to gain, and it is even harder when one is dealing with teenagers hailing from turbulent families and troubled communities.
Hence, you must practice rigorous authenticity. This means that you have to be completely open and transparent with your students at all times. Rigorous authenticity requires the willingness to be vulnerable, to allow students to see your weaknesses as clearly as you can see theirs.
If you can manage to do that, you will have overcome the greatest hurdle to winning their trust and respect. Before the new school year starts, this is one approach you can practice in order to ensure the success of your drug prevention efforts.
2. Have Uncomfortable Conversations
Talking about alcoholism, addiction, and drug dependence is neither easy nor comfortable. Often, adults have a tendency to try and sanitize the subject matter being discussed, especially when they are talking to children or adolescents.
However, to run a successful drug prevention program, you must be willing to have uncomfortable conversations with your students. You must be willing to talk about the effects of addiction and the consequences of drug abuse, sometimes in vivid detail.
If the student comes from a family that has a history of alcoholism, then you must be willing to talk with them about the challenges of growing up with alcoholic parents and suggest healthy coping mechanisms on a case by case basis.
So, before the new school year starts, you must accept and embrace the idea of having real, honest, and uncomfortable conversations with your students on a regular basis.
3. Provide a Safe Haven
This ties back to the point about trust-building. Students will not open up about their problems if they sense that the people running the program are judgmental or reactionary. Therefore, you must develop the habit of listening with an open mind, without any judgments or preconceived notions. The children and adolescents must feel safe when confiding in you.
They should be able to talk to you about peer pressure, family issues, and even about their experiences with drugs or alcohol, without having to fear being judged, mocked, or ostracized. Only then will you be able to learn about the individual challenges and struggles of each student, and help them accordingly. And by trying to create a safe haven for your students, you can ensure the success of your drug prevention efforts.
4. Understand Teen Culture:
One way to prepare for the success of your drug prevention efforts is by gaining an understanding of teen culture. Much of adolescent substance abuse is driven by peer pressure, and to be able to counter it effectively, educators must first understand where it comes from and what causes it.
To gain such insight, you must let go of the stereotypical image of teen culture fed to us by mainstream media and immerse yourself in the things that your students enjoy doing and the places where they spend the most time.
By doing so, you will gain valuable knowledge about what types of parties are likely to involve drug use, which hangout areas are frequented by addicts and drug peddlers, and what kind of movies or music glamorizes substance abuse, and which ones discourage it.
It will help you gain a first-hand understanding of which elements of teen culture should be encouraged and which ones need to be strategically phased out through familial and community intervention.
So if you are trying to design or implement an effective school-based drug prevention program, these are some of the things that you should practice and pay attention to before the start of the new school year. Drug prevention is not an event, it is a process, and in order to be successful, it requires a great deal of patience, determination, and resilience. You can also buy drug prevention programs and materials developed by experienced and reputed agencies or institutions.