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Life Ready Skills: How to Educate Your Students on Teen Drug Abuse

Written by Russ Gadzhiev, PhD

“It is critical that parents and other trusted adults initiate conversations with kids about underage drinking well in advance of the first time they are faced with a decision regarding alcohol.” – Xavier Becerra 


“Addictions … started out like magical pets, pocket monsters. They did extraordinary tricks, showed you things you hadn’t seen, were fun. But came, through some gradual dire alchemy, to make decisions for you. ” – William Gibson


As we have discussed in our articles on our Shiminly blog, life-ready skills are important for teenagers. The world is changing and the youth of today has to deal with unique challenges and unfamiliar situations. So in order to help them navigate through the tumultuous period of youth, we need to equip them with knowledge and skills that will help them find their way to success, physical and mental health, and happiness. In this article, we are going to focus on an important life-ready skill – the ability to deal with situations that involve drugs. The skills that a student must learn here include the development of avoidance and assertive behaviours, the ability to recognize risks, the development of the understanding of what intoxication is and the effects it has on personal development, one’s social life, and other aspects of life.

Of course, every parent believes that their child will never ever face a situation involving drugs. But as the old adage says – it is better to be safe than sorry.

So first of all, let’s talk about the scientific side of the problem. Teenagers are not as mature as adults – this is one important fact that you need to know as far as science is concerned. It also means that their brain is not as mature as that adults. That means that their brain is more prone to receiving rewards and taking risks than the brain of your average adult. To make things trickier, adolescence is the time when teenagers want to gain more independence from their parents, have more freedom, and experiment with things. And the conflation of these factors alone may be conducive to the desire of a teenager to experiment with drugs.

Now, there are many factors that can potentially contribute to the desire of a young person to experiment with drugs. First of all, it depends on one’s personality, relationships within the family, and trust. It also depends a lot on the quality of your child’s relationships with their peers. You should know that many teenagers begin experiments with drugs because of peer pressure. Since teenagers’ brain is in the process of developing, it is extremely vulnerable to the changes and unexpected chemical reactions that drug may induce in the brain.


So what are the common risks of teen drug abuse? Here they are. The risks include if:

– Some family members had a history of substance abuse before

– If your child has been diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or any other health problem related to mental health

– If your child is impulsive and has a personality that is prone to taking risks

– If your child was psychologically traumatized in any way in the past

– If your child feels rejected by you or faces rejection from his or her peers

Teenagers are likely to try drugs for the first time in social situations. Now, that does not mean that you should prevent them from socializing. Encouraging you to deprive your children of social life is not the point of this article. After all, socialization is an important aspect of one’s life, and eliminating this important part of life from that of your child would not only be unwise, but detrimental (and even more encouraging in terms of drug abuse). What you need to do is to talk to them about it.

Yes, you have probably talked to your child (or students) about the issue of drugs. But check if you have done everything correctly. Telling your children that taking drugs is bad for their health and life, in general, is not enough. Here are the tips on how to educate your children and students on the harm of drugs.


Choose An Appropriate Time to Discuss drugs So You Are Both Comfortable

If you mention the issue of drugs to them as a casual remark, that may give them the wrong signal – that you don’t really care. Also, if you feel frustrated or angry (because you suspect that your teen is taking drugs), it is best to put the conversation off once your negative feelings subside. If you see that your child is under the influence of drugs or intoxicated, do not try to explain to them that what they have done is wrong. Wait until the intoxication goes away and then talk to them.


Ask Your Children (Or Students) For Their Opinion About Drugs

Truth be told, when it comes to the issue of drugs it is best to be less prescriptive and avoid a lecturing tone altogether. Ask your children – what they think about drugs and try to elicit meaningful responses from them. Demonstrate to them that you are willing to hear their honest opinion and that no matter what they say you will still love them. Make them trust you. Make them confide in you. Make your conversation meaningful. If you do not know about the problem of drugs, educate yourself first so that what you say is not proven wrong by your child later (that may undermine your authority).


Carefully Discuss the Negative Effects Of Taking Drugs

Again, do not try to scare your teenagers. You don’t want them to feel more anxious. Instead, calmly talk about the things that are important to your child and explain how drugs can negatively affect these things. If your child is into sports, tell them that drug use may affect their performance. If they are into learning languages, tell them about the negative effects of drugs on their cognitive functions. You can also mention that drugs can worsen someone’s appearance.


Talk To Your Children About How To Resist Peer Pressure

This is an important element of educating your children on drugs. Truth be told, many children start taking drugs because of peer pressure. Peer pressure is something that may be difficult to resist. Brainstorm ways of resisting peer pressure with your child. If you are not sure, read our Shiminly articles on how to go about this issue. Again, make sure that your child does not feel threatened by you. Be open-minded.

Trust is the most important thing when it comes to talking about drugs with your children. Measures such as banning them from seeing their friends are counter-productive and unnecessary. Now, how can you know that your child uses drugs? The symptoms of drug abuse may vary. They include a sudden change in their circle of friends, mood changes, poor performance at school, deteriorating physical appearance, and lack of interest in the things that used to seem interesting to them.

To avoid situations like that, effective school drug education is needed. Such education has to be focused on increasing students’ knowledge about the problem of drug abuse and helping them build up their refusal skills toward illicit drug use. The content of these programs should be relatable and relevant to the young people’s experiences and their life situations. Activities covered by drug education programs should be highly engaging and students must be engaged in coming up with answers and solutions to the situations that they are offered. Where possible, parents should be engaged. Unfortunately, many parents still try to avoid discussing the issue with their children thinking that if they bring it up, then that may spark their children’s interest in taking drugs. The opposite is true. Teenagers these days can access so many things that were inaccessible to their parents. It is important to be honest with them and not lecture them on how bad drugs are.


In the following Shiminly articles, we are going to discuss other life-ready skills that every student and teenager needs. If you are interested in other aspects of education related to life-ready skills check out our recent articles written by our Shiminly experts.





Russ Gadzhiev obtained his PhD in history and politics from University of Melbourne. He also holds a master’s degree in International Relations from Moscow State University of International Relations, a top-ranking diplomatic school. Russ is a strong education professional with a history of working in the higher education sector of Australia and effectively communicates with learners from diverse cultural backgrounds. He is enthusiastic about teaching and mentoring, writing, curriculum development, research, information management and public speaking. He is fluent in Russian, English, Spanish and Portuguese.

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Chris is from Devon, in the south of England. He has been teaching English as a foreign language for over six years and has taught in China, the UK, Hungary and Spain. He has a background in Music and studied Composition at the RSAMD in Glasgow, Trinity Laban in London and at the University of York. After finishing his master’s at York, he travelled to China to teach and fell in love with it. He has been teaching ever since.

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