Heads Up on Substance Abuse
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
There are two schools of thought on the prevention of alcohol and substance abuse. Some believe that educating our youth will intensify their curiosity and perhaps encourage them to experiment with alcohol or drugs. Others believe that educating young people will deter them from experimenting with alcohol and drugs because they will understand the psychological and physiological effects these substances have on their bodies. Either way, I am sure that if you are a middle school or high school teacher, you are aware of the dangers of alcohol and substance abuse. This article provides resources and classroom activities for educating middle and high school students about substance abuse.
Monitoring the Future Teen Survey
On December 12, 2010, Michigan University published a press release revealing the recent finding of the Monitoring the Future survey. Among other things it said, “Marijuana use is rising; ecstasy use is beginning to rise; and alcohol use is declining among U.S. teens” (Johnston, O'Malley, Bachman, Schulenberg). Although some usage has increased in the past year, the evidence suggests that taking a scientific approach to educating youth about alcohol and drug use appears to have been effective during the last decade. Many school districts provide alcohol and drug prevention education in health classes or through special programs such as D.A.R.E. There are a plethora of resources for middle school and high school educators who address these concerns with students.
This year, Scholastic, in conjunction with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), launched Heads Up, a drug awareness and prevention site offering information on teen alcohol and drug use for educators, parents, and students. Teacher directions, student handouts, and additional articles are available on the "Heads Up Teacher's Edition."
The site provides many student activities and handouts that engage students in exploring the effects of drugs on their health. Below is a sampling:
- Web Hunt: In "Questions About Drugs, Answers from Science," students uncover facts on drug abuse and addiction in the United States.
- FACTs Into ACTion: Students engage in role-playing activities to prepare responses to peer pressure or uncomfortable situations.
- Teen Science Investigations: In "The Case of the Teen Brain," students explore the scientific effects of drug use on health.
During Drug Facts week in the fall, NIDA sponsors a Fact Chat Day. Your students can network with other student in the United States through an online chat. The 2010 online chat transcripts are available on the NIDA Web site. The NIDA for Teens series “Mind Over Matter” supports students in grades 5–9. They also offer a FREE download, "Mind Over Matter Teacher’s Guide." A brochure for students, "Drugs: Shatter the Myths," and T-shirt logos are also available.
In most schools, the topic is integrated with health or science class. However, it is easily integrated into other core subjects as well. Choices magazine (Scholastic) publishes articles on difficult topics for teens such as bullying, peer pressure, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, etc. Their companion Web site has a “Fact Sheet Archive.” These materials offer great opportunities to teach content area reading skills such as reading charts, sidebars, captions, etc. Spreadsheets and bar graphs offer opportunities to integrate with math as well. Examples of fact sheets on this topic are posted below. You will need Adobe Reader to view these files:
- "Synthetic Cannabis: The Facts": Learn about the dangers of this illegal drug.
- "Prescription Drug Abuse": Become familiar with dangerous prescription drugs and their health effects.
- "Chemical Chaos": Read about the toxic chemicals found in cigarettes.
- "Facts About Marijuana": This fact sheet covers the long-term and short-term effects of marijuana.
- "Caffeine Alert": Learn about the caffeine content in various drinks.
- "Teens and Alcohol": Interpret four bar graphs to draw conclusions about teen alcohol use.
- "The Pharm Report": Download this one-page breakdown of prescription drugs and the harm they cause.
Studying the effects of alcohol and drugs on the human body establishes awareness. Awareness of the short-term and long-term effects may deter our youth from using alcohol or illegal substances.
Bird by Zetta Elliot and My Big Sister Takes Drugs by Judith Vigna are two books that can be used as read-alouds at the middle school level. A booklist “Substance Abuse Fiction for Teens” is posted on Scholastic List Exchange to integrate the exploration of alcohol and drug abuse in the English language arts classroom.
For more on the subject of substance abuse and teens, see "Alcohol and Drug Use" from the Center for Disease Control and "Do You Know Your Risk for Addiction?" and "GET THE FACTS: Drug Abuse Puts Your Whole Body at Risk" from Scholastic. The nonprofit Mountain View Prevention Program offers a wide range of information, and the Foundation for a Drug Free World provides videos, testimonials, and booklets.
Please feel free to share your opinion on this topic and to tell how your school addresses these concerns.
Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G., & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 14, 2010). "Marijuana use is rising; ecstasy use is beginning to rise; and alcohol use is declining among U.S. teens." University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI. Retrieved 01/30/2011 from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org