Combating Substance Abuse in Schools

In recent years there have been significant increases in alcohol, drug and substance abuse across the country. This abuse has significantly impacted K-12 school-age students as well as those pursuing postsecondary education.

To help combat substance abuse in schools, the Department of Education has developed webinars designed for State-, district- and building-level administrators, teachers and specialized instructional support personnel interested in supporting students and families impacted by the opioid crisis.

In recognition of this year’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week (NDAFW) scheduled for January 22-27, 2019, the Department is sharing the signs and strategies to help identify and support impacted students below. To view the webinar on this important topic, click here.

Warning signs that may indicate that a student is impacted by opioids, alcohol and other substance use, include:

Elementary Students

  • Poor mental/motor development
  • Memory and perception problems
  • Speech and language problems
  • Developmental delays
  • Reduced decision making abilities
  • Impaired self-regulation
  • Poor response to stressful situations
  • Impaired school performance

Middle School Students

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Secretive behaviors
  • Poor hygiene/Changes in physical appearance
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Rapid changes in mood
  • Decline in academic performance or attendance

High School Students

  • Mood and personality changes
  • Depression
  • Hyperactivity
  • Health and hygiene issues
  • Changes in relationships with friends and family
  • Problems with police
  • Unhealthy peer/dating relationships
  • Disengagement from school
  • Poor attendance or dropping out

Strategies to support students who may be impacted by opioids, alcohol and other substance use, include:

  • Find out what kinds of resources are available in your school or district, so you know where to turn to get help for a student
  • Talk with school counselors, nurses and administrators to find out how best to support students for whom you are concerned
  • Learn to recognize the signs of opioid, alcohol and substance abuse so you can refer students appropriately
  • Integrate basic alcohol and drug prevention skill-building into everyday teaching so student can learn to:
    • Make good decisions
    • Solve problems
    • Become more assertive and practice learning refusal skills
    • Be more self-aware
    • Build positive relationships
  • Help students learn coping and stress management skills such as:
    • Self-control
    • Standing up to peer pressure
    • Time management
    • Dealing with difficult situations like conflict or loss
    • Setting goals
  • Talk with students about opioid, alcohol and substance abuse

Information on how to plan, register and host your own NDAFW event, or to receive free publications, resources and educational activities, can be found at National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teachers.

To learn more about the U.S. national opioid crisis and find information and resources on how schools, students and parents of students can help fight this epidemic, please visit the Department’s website at Combating the Opioid Crisis: Schools, Students, Families