Do you remember when you were in high school? How easy was it to sneak in some beer at a party or score a joint in order to sneak a puff or two? Unless you lived a completely sheltered existence, you were probably exposed to some level of drug and underage drinking in your high school years.
That might give you basis to enter into a discussion with your own kids, but it’s clear the landscape has changed. It is best to take a proactive approach here. Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, begin the dialogue now. It will help to understand what you’re up against.
According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, there is actually a decrease in the use of alcohol and prescription pain relievers among high school students. Marijuana usage remains No. 1 illicit drug among this group, with 35.1 percent of 12th graders saying they have indulged. Abuse of Adderall comes in second at 6.8 percent. Ironically, that is a drug most often prescribed to this age group to help with the symptoms of ADHD.
One possible area of concern is the rise of e-cigarettes among this group. These devices are gaining in popularity, and do are softening attitudes toward some drug use. In other words, even students who don’t use might not perceive lighting up as a big deal.
Recent surveys have found that up to two-thirds of high school students say drugs are “kept, sold and used at school.” So much for the occasional Friday night party. This means it’s not so much a discussion of “Is drug use a problem” but “What be done to protect our kids?”
Tackling the Problem Head On
The clear first line of defense to combat drug abuse in high school students remains with the family. That starts with encouraging communication, sometimes beginning when the kid is 8 years old. Again, go back to your own upbringing. What influence did you parents have on your own use, if any?
As much as they would like to, parents can’t watch over their kids around the clock. They’ll still be going to school and facing all kinds of peer pressure. Fortunately, many schools are stepping up prevention programs by tackling the issue head on. This can come in the form of drug and alcohol use prevention messages that have been crafted by students. Those are the kind of messages that can lead to discussions in and out of the classroom.
Another approach is to set up a schoolwide safety net in the form of a charter school catering to students who are working through their sobriety. Along with a typical curriculum, students at Hope Academy are also provided ongoing counseling to help with their substance abuse problems. This approach provides students with a safe and clean environment where they can focus on their education, but also find instant help with those behavioral triggers that could lead them down a dark path.
Between pop culture, music and the endless bombardments of social media, it is increasing difficult for teens to escape the concept of drug use. The goal is to get them to act responsibly before that concept becomes a reality.