The path toward substance abuse often starts in middle school. In a recent national survey, 10 percent of 8th graders reported using marijuana in the past year. Almost six percent used other illegal drugs besides marijuana. These numbers increase substantially in high school. Not only do drugs impact the developing brain, but many act as a gateway for more serious substance abuse later on. It is important to begin drug prevention efforts early before more serious problems occur. The following are important factors to consider to help prevent substance abuse in middle school children.
It Takes a Village
Most effective substance abuse prevention combines home and school/community involvement. Many schools offer some form of drug prevention, whether it is through health education or a formal substance abuse prevention program. The most recent School Health Policies and Practices Study reports that almost 80 percent of schools cover the subject of substance abuse in middle school. If you are unaware of how your child's school covers the topic of substance abuse, contact your school administrator. If you are concerned that the mandatory substance abuse education is inadequate, there are sometimes optional programs that your child can participate in with parent approval.
Nobody has more influence in preventing substance abuse than a parent. The following are three areas where parental involvement can have a huge effect:
If parents have an open line of communication with their children, they are more likely to know about their child's behavior regarding drug use. The more comfortable your child feels, the more he/she will share. It is important to talk openly with your children about drugs in a non-judgmental way to foster further communication.
Although most schools make the effort to educate children about drug use, it may have more of an impact coming from a parent. Parents should talk directly to their children about the consequences of drug use. Keep in mind that you, as a parent, are an influential role model. You can't expect your child to stay off drugs if you are using them yourself. Here is a good resource for parents to educate themselves about substance abuse.
Do you know how your child is spending their time? You don't want to be a helicopter parent but a basic level of supervision is necessary. As a general rule, you want to be able to answer the W questions: where are they, who are they with and what are they doing? It is impossible to successfully prevent substance abuse if you do not know how your child is spending their time.
Children learn a lot about drugs at an early age. It is important to intervene during the middle school years to prevent the development of substance abuse. At Niznik Behavioral Health, we want to help. We provide a wide variety of substance abuse treatment services. If you believe your child may be using illicit drugs please contact us.