Substance Abuse in Schools: Recognizing the Signs

Studies show that about one-half of teens have tried an illegal drug by the time they are seniors in high school. Also, more than 65% have consumed alcohol by the time they finish high school. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency, drug and alcohol use among teens is a growing problem.

In 2020, a SAMHSA report showed that nearly 10% of adolescents used alcohol during the month before the survey. The report showed that at least 396,000 teens used prescription painkillers illegally. It also showed that 370,000 used hallucinogens. Parents and caregivers must understand the risks and potential impact of substance abuse in schools.

Drug Abuse Hinders Learning and Development for Adolescents

students drug abuse detoxAlcohol and drugs are some of the most destructive influences on adolescents. They are at a time in life when they are trying to find their identity. Their hormones are fluctuating, their bodies are changing, and they are transitioning from childhood to preparing for adulthood.

Drugs and alcohol alter how the brain processes and maintains information. As time passes, the body becomes more accustomed to the substance. This leads to the brain creating more impulses or cravings to seek more of the substance. It takes more to produce the same effects over time, which can put teens in danger of overdosing. They may also become addicted. Addiction takes control when a person knows the negative effects of a substance but cannot stop using it.

Because of how substances affect the brain, they can slow learning abilities. Teens may find it harder to concentrate or remember what they learn. They may be unable to concentrate. Also, substances can negatively affect other areas of life. Added to adolescent hormonal changes, the effects can be especially difficult for adolescents.

The Predominance of Substance Abuse in Missouri’s Schools

Data from 2019 highlighted the growing problem of drug and alcohol use among Missouri teens. The report came from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, which proved that in many schools, drugs are sold between students. Some may have suppliers, and others may find substances at home.

Results from the survey showed that 43,000 middle and high schoolers consumed alcohol a month before the study. There were also 15,000 reported cases of substance use disorders for illicit drugs among adolescents. However, those were the only reported cases. Some cases of substance use disorders go unnoticed or unreported.

Risk Factors of Substance Abuse in Schools

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are several other risk factors identified, including the following:

  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • A higher risk of contracting HIV
  • Parents demonstrating enabling behavior
  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Poor academic performance
  • Lack of monitoring by parents
  • Mental health issues
  • Rejection from family or friends
  • Lack of school connections
  • Parents who abuse substances
  • Peers who use substances

One or more of these risk factors above may cause adolescents to try drugs and/or alcohol. Recognizing the signs is important.

Consequences of Adolescent Substance Use

substance abuse detox MO

Research from the CDC and other organizations shows many potential consequences. These are some specific and common examples:

  • Risky sexual behavior can lead to STDs or unwanted pregnancies.
  • Violent behavior can lead to legal problems.
  • Exposure to others with violent behavior can lead to injuries.
  • The negative effects of substance abuse can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions.
  • Prolonged substance abuse can lead to mental health disorders.
  • Substance abuse can lead to poorer performance at school and bad grades.
  • Changes in behavior can lead to losing friends.
  • Students who play sports or participate in some clubs may be banned for substance use.
  • Some students may be expelled from school for substance use or behaviors due to using drugs.

Many adolescents who misuse drugs or alcohol also drop out of school voluntarily. According to SAMHSA, adolescents who misuse substances score lower than their peers who moderately use substances or use none. One-half of those students drop out of high school. Also, SAMHSA noted that students with poor academic performance are more likely to drop out.

Connection Between Alcohol or Drug Abuse in Schools and Academic Performance

Some students may have learning or social issues that impact performance. As a result, they may turn to substances. However, some students have plenty of friends, perform well in school and participate in sports. They may still turn to substances to cope with emotional issues, try to enhance sports performance, or for other reasons.

While the relationship between substance use and academic performance has been known for some time, it is under-recognized. Policymakers and researchers should focus on making this known since combatting substance use can help. Overall academic performance rates may be improved.

Knowing that about one-fourth of students will drop out, policymakers must find more ways to intervene earlier. Of the 3.87 million adolescents in the country with SUD, only about 4% get proper treatment. With better prevention and intervention strategies, reducing alcohol and drug abuse in schools is possible.

Talking To Your Child About Substance Abuse in Schools

Parents can help reduce risksdrug addiction treatment program for adolescents by talking to kids and listening to them. It is important to understand why this communication is critical and how to approach it.

SAMHSA provides plenty of resources for talking to kids about substance use. These are some of the key reasons the agency lists for talking to teens about drugs and alcohol:

  • It is better to talk to children before they are exposed to substances.
  • Parents can be influential in a teen’s decision to not use drugs or alcohol.
  • As kids get older, they are more likely to try more substances.
  • Some children or adolescents may try dangerous doses of substances.
  • Not talking about substance use may make children underestimate the potential harm.

How soon should parents start talking to kids about drugs? According to SAMHSA, about 10% of 12-year-old kids have tried alcohol. At age 15, 50% have tried alcohol, and the number only increases from there. Talking to kids before they become teens today may help reduce risks. However, parents whose kids are already teens should talk to them now.

There are a few key ideas that Harvard Health recommends. First, be specific in communicating your values. For instance, a child who is told to make good decisions may think that drinking too much is bad. The parent may mean to not drink at all. Kids need to know the dangers of substances and addiction to understand why they should avoid them.

The second important point is to listen without lecturing. Teenagers and preteens are more receptive to learning than adults. For example, a parent can ask what a child knows about a certain substance. The parent can ask questions to determine if the child understands the harm. If not, the questions can focus on discovering why the child thinks differently. It is important to avoid being judgmental or getting upset.

Third, it is important to look for reasons. If the child has already used substances, parents must try to figure out why. Also, if a child is considering using a substance, a parent must discover the reasons. It may be an untreated anxiety disorder, bullying, or something else. For instance, a child may feel depressed because of bullies.

As a result, the parent may schedule a visit with a psychiatrist and discuss the bullying problem with the school’s principal. If the child has professional help and support, the child may not turn to drugs or alcohol.

Recognizing the Signs of Substance Abuse in Adolescents

As children become teens, their behavior changes and may change multiple times. This can make it difficult to distinguish between typical teen behavior and signs of substance abuse. Sudden behavioral changes are common indicators. These are some other signs:

  • Changing groups of friends
  • Skipping school or missing classes
  • Poorer hygiene or grooming
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Poorer academic performance
  • Losing interest in favorite activities
  • Poorer or strained relationships

Completing School in Recovery

As a result of Missouri’s schools recognizing substance use problems, students have access to more resources. They may receive counseling, opportunities to make up work, and more. Treatment facilities often communicate with schools to develop plans for students to finish school as they start their recovery. Some schools may also cooperate to let a student complete detox or inpatient treatment at a facility. There are also outpatient treatment programs that can accommodate a high school student’s unique needs. Additionally, family therapy helps family members learn how to support a struggling adolescent and communicate effectively.

Getting Missouri Teens the Help They Need

If you have children who are 18 years of age or older who may be struggling with addiction, Sana Lake Recovery is here to help. Our facility raises awareness about substance abuse in schools. We can discuss available treatment plans and answer your questions about how treatment works for adolescents in school.

We teach them strategies to overcome addiction and live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Sana Lake has multiple facilities throughout Missouri. To learn more about adolescent addiction treatment or drug abuse in schools, please contact us.