Teaching Students to Make Good Decisions Can Reduce Drug Abuse

School districts are discovering that one of the most effective ways to reduce drug and alcohol use among middle-school students is to teach them the life skills to make good decisions.

In the past, school drug and alcohol awareness programs focused on teaching children to “Just Say No.” But medical studies that explored the effectiveness of several types of middle-school drug awareness programs, mostly involving sixth- and seventh-graders, found that the best programs encouraged students to stand up to peer pressure and provided role-playing techniques.

Programs that taught children about the physical and mental effects of drugs gave students more knowledge about drugs in general, but it didn’t stop them from trying drugs, which was the ultimate goal of the programs. Even programs that focused on building self-esteem and confidence in students didn’t prevent drug abuse in students later on.

Teaching students drug education through life skills is a way to help children protect themselves and their friends when they find themselves in many types of risky situations, including those that involve drugs. It’s a holistic approach that helps them build their own sets of values, skills and knowledge. Life skills programs need to provide them with the opportunity to practice these skills and, at the same time, reinforce and promote all types of positive behaviors.

One of the best ways to teach drug prevention programs is as part of a comprehensive health education program that incorporates a life skills-based education. This requires the program to be taught in age-appropriate sequences and over several years during school. Students need to feel as though they are an important part of the programming and, let’s face it, they are. They need to be actively involved in the program and allowed to reflect on what they’re learning. groupkidswalkngonstreet

Reflecting on what you’re learning is key to any drug prevention program for young people. If they’re going to remain drug-free or not try drugs at all, they need to learn how to develop the skills and values to learn to cope in healthy ways with their problems as they grow older.

Students need to learn how to:

  • Build self-esteem
  • Set realistic goals
  • Cope with anxiety and other emotional struggles
  • Resist peer pressure
  • Learn to communicate effectively
  • Make better decisions
  • Manage conflict in respectful yet assertive ways
  • Lastly, respond when they’re in social situations where they may be offered drugs.