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    May 2016

    Combating Youth Drug Abuse in Public Schools

    teenagers standing outside school

    Illicit youth drug use continues to be a challenge for public K-12 schools and communities. Although overall nationwide illicit drug use among adolescents (defined as youth in grades 9-12) has not increased, according to the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, it continues to be a significant issue. Among statistics from 2009-2010 compiled by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:

    • California and Texas were among the top 10 states for cocaine use among 12- to 17-year-olds
    • California, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Washington were among the top 10 states for nonmedical use of opioids by the same age group
    • Heroin is the most commonly cited drug in primary drug treatment admissions in Maryland and Pennsylvania

    Public schools in these states are taking steps to prevent youth drug abuse. For example:

    • The Ohio Department of Education recommends resources about the dangers of prescription opioid abuse for educators to use in their health care curriculum.
    • The Maryland State Department of Education is encouraging its middle and high schools to adopt a service-learning project aimed at reducing heroin use and overdoses. The state is working on a K-6 curriculum on the dangers of prescription drugs and what students might find in their home medicine cabinet.
    • In Pennsylvania, heroin overdoses are occurring at such an alarming rate that public schools are encouraged to keep on hand a supply of naloxone, an antidote to reverse the effects of a heroin or opioid overdose.

    Drug abuse prevention programs geared for educators, families, and students are essential in public schools. Programs must include:

    • Educator training. Teach all educators how to identify signs and symptoms of student substance abuse and how to intervene.
    • Student education. Teach students that substance use carries health risks, including reduced brain functioning, impaired memory, and mental health problems.
    • Family programs. Educate parents to reinforce what children learn in school.

    Schools can locate evidence-based prevention programs at the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and the National Institute on Drug Abuse.


    Keeping Students Alcohol and Drug Free in Public Schools


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