ERIC Identifier: ED301968
Publication Date: 1988-00-00
Author: Klauke, Amy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management Eugene OR.

Stopping Drug Abuse. ERIC Digest Series Number EA32.

As surveys show drug abuse to be a national priority concern and Congress initiates strong antidrug legislation, schools are seeking the most effective ways to stem the tide of alcohol and drug use among their students.


According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, one in twenty high school seniors drinks alcohol daily, and 61 percent have tried illegal drugs (Bachman and others 1986). Even more alarming, one in ten high school seniors admits to having tried the addictive and toxic drug cocaine (Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan 1987). As Susan Hooper (1988) points out, the United States ranks "first among all industrialized nations in the number of young people using illicit drugs."

Use of alcohol and drugs by students poses a serious threat to society, to the students themselves, and to the educational process. The relationship between drug use and crime is evident in a Bureau of Justice Statistics report (Beck and others 1987) stating that nearly half of juveniles in correctional facilities committed their offenses while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drug and alcohol abuse is also linked with dropping out of school, depression, suicide, and violence.

Also of direct concern to educators is the effect of drugs on student learning. According to Hooper, "scientific research has shown that many drugs, even when taken in small doses, can cause permanent damage to the learning centers of the brain-damage which increases with increased drug use."

Responding to the drug crisis, more than half of the states require local school districts to implement comprehensive substance abuse programs (Cashman 1986). Many states have established councils to coordinate community and school prevention and educational efforts. In some states, preservice training in drug and alcohol abuse prevention is a prerequisite for teacher certification.


As each district assesses its own particular substance abuse problem, responses range from strict punitive measures to strengthening personal coping skills and careful reworking of structures that may be leading students to drug dependency. Oregon's Newberg School District bases its Drug and Alcohol Student Assistance Program on the premise that "addiction is a disease that follows a predictable pattern and is treatable" (Leatt 1987). Along with a comprehensive drug education program, Newberg trains an Impact Team composed of school and community members versed in causes, symptoms, and intervention techniques of substance abuse. Teachers who observe behaviors symptomatic of drug use in a student fill out a referral form that can lead to further monitoring of the student's behavior by other faculty members and to an interview arranged with the family. With parental agreement, the student then begins an appropriate rehabilitation program. Deane Flood and Ellen Morehouse (1986) warn that, "in their quest to help, educators often prevent students from suffering the negative consequences of their substance abuse. As a result, the students have no reason or motivation to change." Westchester County's Student Assistance Program, these authors say, works to diffuse such enabling responses by, for instance, sponsoring chaperoned social events and establishing a firm, publicized policy regarding possession of drugs or alcohol.

Ohio's Forest Hills School District enlists coaches to discuss substance abuse with their teams. These coaches, Norma Wolf (1986) reports, recruit student athletes, especially team captains, who agree to encourage other students to stay clear of drugs and alcohol.


It is possible that the fever and rhetoric of an "antidrug" campaign could deflect attention from the deeper issues of fear, despair, and alienation, Richard Sagor (1987) warns. He advises educators to attend to the conditions that lead to self-destructive activity. Adult responses should be informed, tempered to the occasion, and reflect not accusation but rather concern for the well-being of the student.

There must also be the concession that drug use is not limited to young people, and that, in fact, alcohol abuse presents the most serious drug-related health and social concern in our country. Care should be taken not to engender division among or within students, but to create instead, Sagor recommends, "meaningful, useful, socially productive roles for teenagers in our society."


The lack of significant success in stemming drug use is almost always due, C. Lynn Fox and others (1987) say, "to an inadequate understanding of both a process and the content of a comprehensive planning and implementation model." They suggest identifying a team of interested, committed staff and community members to carry out the following five phases of a prevention and intervention plan:

* Needs Assessment-utilize surveys, interviews, pretesting,

and attention to contributory social norms and processes to gain

an understanding of root causes, degree, and characteristics of

local drug use.

* Planning Process-prioritize specific goals, organize methods,

and assign tasks.

* Implementation-educate parents, staff, and students; sponsor

drug-free activities; identify and refer substance abusers for

treatment; establish peer support and followup systems.

* Evaluation-examine pre- and post-student data and measure program


* Dissemination-inform the local community about the program and

request their input.

Among additional strategies for mounting an effective program, Hooper suggests that school leaders carefully evaluate their district's present policies; revise them or develop new ones, as necessary; "involve parents, law enforcement and health officials, drug treatment specialists," and others in shaping those policies; and vigorously enforce the policies. Also, she advises districts to "develop curricula that encourage students to 'say no' to drugs and alcohol."


The promotion of student self-esteem and a positive school atmosphere should permeate any substance abuse program. An emphasis on active learning, higher academic standards, and individualized instruction can help maintain students' focus on their own education.

Dealing with potentially dangerous substances and issues of intrusion and invasion of personal freedom necessitates a thorough and updated knowledge of relevant laws. Firm, consistent policies against drug and alcohol abuse lend credibility and seriousness to assistance programs. It is also important to involve students in peer support groups and student-organized, drug-free social activities.

The best plans are comprehensive, long-term, and integrated into overall school curricula and policy. They respond to the diverse needs and particular characteristics of each school district and each student. And, as Sagor reminds, we must restructure our institutions "to focus on youth's legitimate need for self-esteem and usefulness... we must make peace with our children."


Bachman, Jerald G.; Lloyd D. Johnson; and Patrick M. O'Malley. DRUG USE AMONG AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS, COLLEGE STUDENTS, AND OTHER YOUNG ADULTS: NATIONAL TRENDS THROUGH 1985. Rockville, Maryland: National Institute on Drug Abuse, 1986. 237 pages.

Beck, Allen J.; Susan A. Klein: and Lawrence A. Greenfeld. SURVEY OF YOUTH AND CUSTODY: 1987. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Department of Justice, September 1988. 12 pages.

Cashman, Jude. ALCOHOL AND DRUG ABUSE PREVENTION EDUCATION: SURVEY OF THE STATES. Hartford: Connecticut State Department of Education and Washington, D.C.: National Association of State Boards of Education, October 1986. 14 pages. ED 277 660.

ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management. DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE. VALUE SEARCH. Eugene: ERIC/CEM, University of Oregon, 1988. 42 pages.

Flood, Deane H., and Ellen R. Morehouse. "The Principal's Role in Preventing and Reducing Student Substance Abuse." NASSP BULLETIN 70, 487 (February 1986): 10-15. EJ 333 024.

Fox, C. Lynn; Shirley Forbing; and Patricia S. Anderson. PLANNING MODEL FOR SUCCESSFUL DRUG-FREE SCHOOLS. Portland, Oregon: Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory, October 1987. 11 pages. ED 290 105.

Hooper, Susan. ALCOHOL AND DRUGS IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL LEADERS. Alexandria, Virginia: National School Boards Association, April 1988. 60 pages.

Institute for Social Research. DRUGS AND AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN 1986. Ann Arbor: Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, 1987.

Leatt, Desmond J. SCHOOLS AGAINST DRUGS: THE IMPACT PROGRAM AT NEWBERG SCHOOL DISTRICT. OSSC Bulletin Series. Eugene: Oregon School Study Council, University of Oregon, January 1987. 36 pages. ED 278 109.

McCurdy, Jack, Ed., and others. THE DRUG FREE SCHOOL: WHAT SCHOOL EXECUTIVES CAN DO. Education USA Executive Summary #1. Arlington, Virginia: National School Public Relations Association, 1986. 17 pages. ED 276 936.

Sagor, Richard. "Seeking Peace in the War on Drugs." NASSP BULLETIN 71, 495 (January 1987): 84-87. EJ 347 129.

Study: Juvenile Arrests Are Drug, Alcohol Related." CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR 80, 206 (September 19, 1988): 2.

U.S. Department of Education. WHAT WORKS: SCHOOLS WITHOUT DRUGS. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, 1986. 78 pages.

Woolf, Norma Bennett. "Recruit Coaches and Athletes to Help Battle Drugs." AMERICAN SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL 173, 2 (February 1986): 36. EJ 331 377.

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