Engaging Your Students in Drug Prevention Education All Year

11/08/2012  |  Brianna Giambrone

As educators, we all understand that substance abuse affects many youth and families across the United States. With a lack of effective prevention programs available, the average age students begin experimenting with drugs is consistently becoming younger and younger. However, not all hope is lost.

Let’s collectively set an intention to engage our students on their level - what good is any drug prevention program if it doesn’t get real and meet youth where they are?

Our students need genuine guidance, so let’s offer them inspiration and motivation. Let’s get them thinking not only about the consequences of dangerous choices, but also about the beauty and possibility that life has to offer if they tap into what makes them tick.

Please find some food for thought below and learn how you can engage your students in drug prevention education all year long.

Instead of telling a young person what not to do, help them to understand the healthy things they can do. Let’s redirect the discussion away from the negative effects of drugs, and guide our youth toward a discussion about what empowers them, feeds their souls, and inspires them to focus on the healthy alternatives that create community and a sense of belonging and purpose.

Have a discussion about what inspires your students. What do they want to be? What activities make the time pass quickly for them? Ask them how drugs might negatively affect their ability to pursue these activities.

Research ways they can practice or develop their skills at minimum to no cost. Most communities have programs that offer a variety of healthy activities that are also affordable (if not free). Visit the local community center, or better yet have your students do the digging and share their findings with the class!

Give real examples. Show your students individuals who have made healthy choices and have a proven track record of success because of it. Students are constantly bombarded with negative messages from the people they look up to: actors, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities. What we need to do is communicate the opposite message to our nation’s young people: the success attained by famous people who have never done drugs and don't have a desire to start.

Facilitate honest, transformational dialogue by altering the collective mindset to say, ‘It is NOT cool to do drugs, but what is cool is doing my natural high.’

Help youth to understand that only a small percentage of the entire country uses drugs. Encourage them to think about the choices being made by the majority who lead healthy, well-balanced lives. Let them discuss these realities with their classmates.

Spend roughly a quarter of your prevention teaching consequence messaging. Studies have shown that prevention programs like D.A.R.E., that utilize heavy scare tactics and consequence messaging, have not only proven to be ineffective, but in some cases actually increased students’ curiosity.

Briefly touch upon the consequences, but focus instead upon the alternatives to drugs, the support they can seek should they be struggling, and the beauty of saying ‘YES’ to a natural high.

For an all-inclusive FREE resource that helps educators address the above ingredients, visit www.naturalhigh.org.

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