Drug Use Prevention as Part of Back-to-School
• September 2022 •
Executive Director’s Message: Drug Use Prevention as Part of Back-to-School
With students back in school, it’s time to include drug use prevention education as part of the curriculum. Here in California, 24% of boys and girls in the 11th grade have used alcohol or drugs in the past month. And that’s not all:
- 9.7% of California high school students reported current use (past 30 days) of at least one tobacco product
- 22% of all students living in cities initiated marijuana use before age 13
- 29% of students in grades 9-12 reported alcohol use in the past 30 days
- 34% of LGBT+ students in grades 9-12 reported alcohol use in the past 30 days
- Prescription drugs are the fastest growing drug problem in America, and 14% of students reported misusing prescription opioids
Waiting until our youth reach high school to deliver the anti-substance use message, is often too late. Current research demonstrates that early prevention education is the only effective deterrence of substance use in high school students. For decades our communities have relied on prevention programs that are not evidence-based, while delaying their implementation until middle school or later. The cost of this non-research driven decision has been catastrophic for our youth and society at large.
Studies show that starting structured in-school substance use prevention education in Kindergarten is a best practice, supported by ongoing booster education in first, second and third grade. Once children start being influenced by their peers (fourth-fifth grade), prevention education starts to lose its effect in deterring substance use in high school. This is why waiting until middle school is simply no longer an option.
Realistically, many students are first exposed to alcohol and drugs in their family environment. Results from recent research suggest that siblings (particularly older siblings) have a strong influence on adolescents’ alcohol and other substance use. In fact, the influence of siblings is greater than parental influences. Yet, parents matter very much. Fifteen-year-olds whose parent use drugs are twice as likely to use drugs themselves.
Los Angeles Centers for Alcohol and Drug Abuse has an active Youth and Families department that provides school-based and community-based prevention services. If you want more information, call us at (562) 906-2676.
View: Substance Use Prevention Theory for Youth