Preventing Drug Abuse to Prevent Dropouts

Even though National Substance Abuse Prevention Month has ended, it doesn’t mean our dedication to reducing the number of Americans hurt by alcohol and drug abuse has ended as well. At the Department of Education (ED), encouraging safe and healthy environments for students is a year-round effort.

Recently, ED brought together researchers, policy experts, as well as White House officials to discuss new research on the role drug use plays in America’s dropout crisis.

The new report found that researchers and educators who study adolescent substance abuse often recognize the link between substance use and academic failure, but that the link is rarely acknowledged among state and federal policy makers. The briefing at ED’s headquarters was a step to correct this problem.

The briefing also touched upon the White House’s national strategy to combat illicit drug use, and the important role schools play in local drug-free community coalitions.

David Esquith, director of ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students noted that parents, teachers and school counselors “are a first line of defense in prevention,” and that ED has created resources to assist in prevention. He explained that the Department also provides technical assistance for colleges and schools in helping them engage with students in preventing drug use.

You can watch the entire event here, and check out the resources below.

Norris Dickard is Healthy Students Group Leader in ED’s Office of Safe and Healthy Students


  1. Parenting tips with a humorous twist. Parenting advice for parents with bratty child, temper tantrums and spoiled children to help develop good behavior.

  2. The White house is taking a step in the right direction by stressing how important it is for schools to play a role in combating illicit drug use. When people think of illicit drug use, most think of weed or heroin—something serious that can be harder to come by. But, prescription drugs are now the second most common initial drug of abuse among illicit drug users. Of the 2.4 new nonmedical users of Rx drugs, around a third are between the ages of 12 and 17. That figure alone demonstrates how educating young people is necessary to combat this problem. Statistics show that illicit drug users are younger year by year. This is no longer a problem just for the Office of National Drug Control Policy or HHS, but a problem schools need to be involved in a solution to. Rx drugs are the second-most commonly abused drugs among high school seniors. This most commonly includes Adderall and Vicodin. What can schools do to help that? Education is key. I can’t remember a health class I ever took in high school really explaining the dangers and effects of these drugs. I think it’s important that the new report acknowledges that state and federal policy makers need to recognize the link between substance abuse and academic failure. It’s a lofty goal to take on, but it is the responsibility of schools to engage with students in the hopes of preventing drug use.

  3. The president’s plan to reform drug policy is a great start to combat drug use amongst students. Too many high school and university students do not know the adverse effects of drug use because our system is not yet one based on education. If drug education becomes more fact based than fear based I think widespread drug use problem can be reduced. If we expand treatment and support to student drug users who need help we will see fewer students dropping out due to the problem. We need to inform those struggling that they will not be punished for seeking help. Drug use amongst students will be a difficult bridge to cross but I think the President’s plan is a great start.

  4. The dropout problem is almost always attributed to schools and teachers but research shows there is a much greater correlation between drug use and dropout rate, as this article states. Research also shows that home and family interventions are much more effective than school based interventions, and in fact research shows that schools have been ineffective in dealing with drug abuse prevention.

    The ‘new research” referenced in the article draws heavily on teen recovery programs for intervention programs ideas and potential solutions, but nowhere is it even mentioned that these programs rely heavily on ending co-dependance and having the users face personal consequences for their use. Successful programs generally also have a “no tolerance” policy. This type of program is anathema to policy in public schools, largely driven by political pressure. I think this explains why school based programs are so ineffective.

    My point is that many problems blamed on teachers and schools actually have a politically created policy basis. Deal with the policy and only then will you begin to deal with the problem. This applies to poor student performance as well as dropout rates. As long as teachers face consequences for student actions but students themselves do not the problems will persist.

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