How Schools Can Prevent Student Substance Abuse

Kids spend a great deal of time at school, it seems obvious therefore that drug and alcohol prevention should be taught in during the schoolday. There are always new strategies that educators implement, some are more successful than others. Every school in the country, and indeed around the world, wants to ensure that its students are warned and protected against the risk of drug and alcohol addiction. But how can this be achieved? Some schools have far greater success than others in this endeavour, so sharing successful strategies is essential to help all schools reach the best possible outcomes.


The illegal drug most commonly abused by school-age children is marijuana. So should schools provide access to marijuana addiction treatment, or try to tackle the problem further upstream? It seems that the most effective way to reduce the presence of marijuana and other drugs in schools is through a combination of peer engagement, mentoring, and warning of the consequences for students found using drugs on campus.  Providing a path to addiction recovery treatment is helpful, but not as helpful as preventing the use of drugs and alcohol in the first place.

Mentors and peers have a great deal of influence over young people. Schools can foster a positive, healthy-living attitude in students simply by ensuring not only that the anti-drugs message is reinforced by signage and discussion, but also that support and encouragement is available to students who may already be exposed to drugs and alcohol either at school, at home or when out with friends.

Using older students to teach younger classes about drugs is an approach that often works well. When someone their own age who has undergone successful drug detox or alcohol addiction treatment speaks to students about their experiences, students realise that they don’t want to end up needing treatment for addiction themselves.

Another important point is that of “justified refusal”: when students are frequently reminded that substance abuse is punishable by exclusion, they have a ready-made excuse that makes it easier to say “no” if offered drugs and alcohol. 

In the short term, the benefits of anti-drug campaigns in schools are clear: better health and a full education uninterrupted by suspensions or trips to an addiction treatment centre. The long-term benefits, though less immediately apparent, are even more impressive: better exam results lead to improved career prospects, which can set a student up for a successful adult life.

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