The risk of drug abuse increases a lot during negative life changes. For adults, this might be a divorce or a loss of a job. For a teenager it can be a parent’s divorce, changing schools, or moving. Children and young people are exposed to different kinds of substances such as cigarettes and alcohol during their school years. (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2020)
In high school, students might have easier access to drugs through people who use drugs, and through social events where drugs are being used. When living a more independent life as a college student or an employed young adult, the protective structure of a home and school environment no longer exists, exposing people to more risks. (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2020)
Taking risks as a child and as a teenager is normal and part of the growing experience. But what makes this normal growing phase a high-risk opportunity for drug experiments? The parts of the human brain that control judgment and decision-making are not fully developed until the early or mid-20s. Therefore a child or a teenager might not be able to understand the risks of drug experimentation. We also shouldn’t forget the negative effects drug use has on a growing and developing brain. (National Institute on Drug Abuse 2020)
“The drug education currently provided broadly amounts to ‘take drugs and you will die’. This lie is so obvious that no-one takes it seriously.”
― Dominic Milton Trott, The Honest Drug Book: A Chemical & Botanical Journey Through The Legal High Years
The Earlier, the Better
As mentioned above, times of transition increase the risk of drug abuse in adults and children. Offering support and giving people alternative ways to cope with these changes can prevent them from finding “help” from drugs and other substances. A good relationship with teachers, coaches, peers, and other staff members is important because students who are struggling, most likely only talk to people they can trust.
Early education about substances, addictions, and risks is highly beneficial. When educating young people about drugs, it is important to understand that student’s health and wellbeing are results of many different factors. Drug education needs to focus on attitudes, facts, knowledge, and skills.
The Key principles of good “drug education” are:
- Appropriately timed education. Students need to receive information and develop skills before they need to use them.
- Teachers need to be educated on the topic and they need to receive development opportunities.
- Accurate and real-life information about how many kids are actually using drugs or alcohol. This eliminates the “but everyone else is doing it too” -attitude. (Alcohol and Drug Foundation 2020)
Even though drug education plays a key part in preventing and delaying the use of drugs and other substances, it is unrealistic to think, that drug education alone can overcome the power of social media, tv, music, and online influencers and advertising. (Alcohol and Drug Foundation 2020)
Drug prevention is different for adults. Unlike teenagers, most adults are able to understand and comprehend the risks of drug use. For teenagers, drug education happens in schools, for adults prevention efforts often take place in work environments and they focus more on employee wellness. Drug prevention can never be too late!! (The right step 2018)
Not a green light for substance abuse.
Before I ever knew anything about social issues I thought offering services like supervised drug consumption rooms and giving people clean needles for free, would just make our drug problems even worse. I saw it almost as “a green light” to use drugs. But now that I am almost 2 years into my social studies and I’ve gained a lot more knowledge and information about things, I’ve come to realize, that offering these services is not a green light to use drugs, but a way to prevent many health issues and social problems.
Supervised drug consumption rooms for example are a great way to prevent deaths caused by overdose. A total of 87 facilities for supervised drug consumption operate across eight EU Member States (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Spain, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Portugal), Norway, and Switzerland. Consumption rooms are highly targeted services usually integrated with facilities that offer a lot of other health and social services. They are equipped to deal with overdoses, and they offer safe and clean drug usage. These rooms have been shown to benefit high-risk and marginalized drug users. (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2020)
A lot of overdoses happen in the presence of other people. We can prevent overdose deaths by educating bystanders on how to deal with emergency overdose situations and by raising public awareness. (European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction 2020)
National Institute of drug abuse. 2020. Why is adolescence a critical time for preventing drug addiction? Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/preventing-drug-misuse-addiction-best-strategy
Alcohol and Drug Foundation. 2020. The role of drug education in schools. Accessed November 13 November 2020. https://adf.org.au/insights/drug-education-schools/
European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction. 2020. Prevention of Drug-related deaths. Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.emcdda.europa.eu/publications/topic-overviews/prevention-drug-related-deaths_en
The Right Step. 2018. Is Drug Prevention Different for Teens and Adults? Accessed 13 November 2020. https://www.rightstep.com/rehab-blog/drug-prevention-different-teens-adults/