The Importance of Educating Young People about Drugs and Alcohol

Mother talks with young adult son
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Parents want the best for their kids. But what can parents do to safeguard the sobriety and well being of their children?

It All Starts With Education

It is usual for adolescents to engage in a certain amount of risk-taking. Hormones are rushing and pumping during this stage. Conversely, judgment and decision-making skills don’t usually come into focus until a few years later. While some degree of risk-taking may be considered harmless (and possibly even educational), risk-taking that involves experimenting with drugs is a very severe form of risk that could have permanent, negative consequences.

Young people who experiment with drugs and alcohol, risk permanently harming their motivation, memory, learning, judgment, and behavior control. The problem is, most young people don’t know that those really are the genuine risks of using substances. That’s why it’s so critical that young people learn about the harms and dangers of drugs before they are ever exposed to such substances.

Parents have several resources available to them for educating their kids on substance abuse. Excellent places to start include ”Principles of Substance Abuse Prevention for Early Childhood: A Research-Based Guide” and ”Preventing Drug Use among Children and Adolescents.” Both offer a great deal of information on substance abuse prevention, mainly on how to prevent substance abuse among children.

While lots of factors affect drug use trends among youth, there is no doubt that young people use drugs far less when they accurately perceive drugs as being harmful.

Parents aren’t the only ones who can help educate children about the risks of experimenting with drugs and alcohol. For the most part, drug prevention does start in the home, with the parents playing a decisive role in whether or not adolescent sons and daughters end up experimenting with substances. But other institutions can play a role as well.

Schools Can Help Too

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Given that schools play a significant role in young people’s learning, schools are uniquely positioned to help prevent drug use among youngsters. Schools can offer educational seminars and lectures on the effects of drugs and alcohol. They can teach practical skills on how to avoid peer pressure situations. Schools can even provide drug testing and intervention programs to help those students who are already using drugs.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are three primary reasons why schools are ideally positioned to offer drug education and prevention:

  • (1) Drug prevention strategies are best utilized before people develop potentially erroneous beliefs about drugs. As drug education could begin with relatively young school children, such classes could teach kids the truth about drugs long before they hear myths and falsehoods about drugs from others.
  • (2) Schools offer a systematic way of reaching a large number of people quickly and effectively.
  • (3) Schools can utilize a wide range of resources and educational materials to deliver a comprehensive program to kids.

It’s worth mentioning that schools are not meant to replace the drug education that must occur in the homes of these kids. The parents’ relationship with their kids should be the source of any child’s primary education about drugs and alcohol. However, schools can provide a wide range of suitable materials, significantly adding to that educational experience. For example, NIDA released a series of booklets geared toward educating middle school-age students about substance abuse. These booklets could be utilized in the school or at home to teach kids about drugs.

A Safe Environment – Setting the Stage for a Sober Life

In addition to educating youth on drugs and alcohol, it is also essential to provide them with a safe and supportive environment to grow up in. Studies show that moments of extreme transition are often what put young people at the highest risk for drug use in the first place. Moving to a new city or state, parents’ divorce, changing schools, exposure to peer pressure, are all transitions and changes which can push a young person into a challenging mindset where they are more likely to use substances. They may see substances as a potential coping mechanism for their daily struggles, or they may not know any better and may succumb to peer pressure.

Mother supports her daughter at home
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Much of the efforts towards a safe and supportive upbringing can occur within the home itself. Parents can do their best to reduce stress and uproar within their household, and they can make a concerted effort towards creating a comforting and supportive home for their kids.

Giving a son or daughter a safe and supportive environment to grow up in extends outside of the home, too. Parents need to play a role in the types of people their children spend time with. Peer pressure must be avoided. Being around young people who are using substances creates an unsafe and unsupportive environment. Parents should do their best to help their children find supportive, ethical, and moral social groups and activities. The better the environment of one’s upbringing, the less likely they’ll be to experiment with substances.

Fostering a Sober and Healthy Lifestyle for Our Youth

A sober life is worth it. And a life that’s lived without ever experimenting with substances is attainable. We know that drug use and drinking presents serious harm to youth. We know that such activities increase the risk of addiction significantly. But all of this can be prevented if young people receive the support, education, help, love, and assistance they need to live healthy, happy, informed lives.

But if those efforts fail, and if one’s son or daughter does fall prey to addiction, no matter one’s efforts to prevent it from occurring, don’t ever lose hope. Addiction rehabilitation programs exist to pull individuals back from the edge and give them a new chance at life. If your son or daughter is already using drugs and alcohol, the correct approach is to help them get into a drug rehab center as soon as possible. Please don’t wait until it is too late.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.