Preventing the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs (ATOD) is an important aspect of helping children to grow up safe and healthy. Schools play a big part in this prevention effort. At the same time, schools are under increasing pressure to meet rigorous academic standards, provide more extra-curricular activities, and use the latest technology—seemingly with fewer and fewer resources available.
This page is designed to help schools, teachers, and other educators make wise decisions about ATOD prevention, as well as to provide them with ideas and resources to develop a comprehensive school-based ATOD prevention program.
Drug Use Among Lancaster County Youth
The starting point for any effort in substance abuse prevention is an understanding of the extent of the problem. While most sources provide data at the state and national level, the 2011 Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Youth Survey provides substance use and other behavioral data based on 6,171 students (6th, 8th, 10th and 12th grades) in Lancaster County public and private schools. Highlights from the report include:
The three most popular substances in 2011 among Lancaster County eighth graders at the time of the survey were alcohol (12.1% of students indicate current use); inhalants (7.8% of students indicated current use); and marijuana (4% of students indicated current use).
The three most popular substances in 2011 among Lancaster County twelfth graders at the time of the survey were alcohol (41.3% of students indicated current use); marijuana (17.1% of students indicated current use); and cigarettes (12.8% of students indicated current use).
Information from the survey and report are summarized here:
School-based prevention is one of the most effective approaches to reducing the use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (ATOD). School -based prevention can be very effective as an approach because: (1) most ATOD use/abuse begins before the age of 20 and (2) schools are often the single best place to reach large numbers of people in this age group.
Effective and comprehensive school-based prevention programs help students develop social skills, decision-making skills, and coping skills, all of which are important tools for kids in avoiding ATOD use. Since kids are often at risk years before they actually use, prevention programs should begin as early as elementary school, with frequent re-enforcement throughout middle and high school.
Creating a drug-free school policy is both a legal necessity and an important component to creating a comprehensive drug and alcohol prevention plan.
Schools, administrators, and school boards are under increasing pressure to institute drug testing among students. While a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Pottawatomie v. Earls, 2002) allows for school drug testing of students involved in extra-curricular activities, other state laws and rulings (such as the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania ruling in Theodore v. Delaware Valley School District, 2002) call into question the legality of suspicionless drug testing of students.
Additionally, school drug testing has not proven itself as an effective approach to substance abuse prevention, despite claims by some to the contrary. School drug testing is a complex issue and it is important for school administrators and school boards to carefully consider a number of factors before adopting school drug testing of students. The links to the following documents will provide you with information on school drug testing from various perspectives (none of which are representative of the opinion of Compass Mark or our funders):
Student Assistance Program (SAP) is a Commonwealth-mandated program for the delivery of K-12 prevention, intervention and support services, primarily in the areas of substance abuse and mental health. SAP attempts to intervene at the earliest stages of a problem, thereby reducing student risk factors, promoting protective factors and increasing asset development.
Pennsylvania Association of Student Assistance Professionals- PASAP is a non-profit membership organization whose mission is to address the influence of alcohol, other drugs and mental health issues that affect the welfare of our youth. PASAP is committed to providing support and networking in the areas of prevention, intervention, treatment, aftercare, ongoing support services and education to all individuals or organizations who foster this same commitment.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Student Assistance Programs- PA SAP provides leadership for developing a safe and drug-free environment and mental health wellness in schools and communities across the Commonwealth. Barriers to learning will be removed and student academic achievement will be enhanced through collaborative prevention, intervention, and post-intervention services.
Links for Educators
Kids Count Data Center- A project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, KIDS COUNT is the premier source for data on child and family well-being in the United States. Access hundreds of indicators, download data and create reports and graphics by state or county around family violence, immigration status, school test scores, poverty and many other factors.
Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13- IU 13, one of 29 intermediate units across Pennsylvania, is a regional educational agency whose mission is to assist local school districts to enhance educational opportunities. An excellent resource for those interested in in-school prevention programming.
The Media Straight Up- Offers critical thinking skills for PA's youth when it comes to media literacy, including a downloadable curriculum in collaboration with renowned media expert Dr. Renee Hobbs of the Temple University Media Education Lab.
Pennsylvania Students Against Destructive Decisions- The SADD website includes information about local chapters, education, conferences, contests, activities, and speakers.
Smart Moves: Smart Choices- The problem of teen prescription drug abuse is taking a toll on communities across the country. As educators - teachers, principals and school nurses - you spend a great deal of time around teens every day and have a better than average understanding of their behaviors and culture. Because you are on the front lines, you have a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the risks of prescription drug abuse and to influence your students.
Time to Get Help- Here you’ll find learning experiences, expert guidance and support from parents and families struggling with a young person with an alcohol or drug problem.
Our Top Picks for Kids & Teens
Above the Influence- Above the Influence. It’s a state of mind. It’s about being yourself and not letting negative influence get to you. Pressure to drink, do drugs or do anything that goes against who you are in order to fit in—that’s negative influence. And if you’re one of the teens who want to stay above it, you’ve come to the right spot.
Flipswitch: The Balanced Mind Foundation- Flipswitch is dedicated to helping teens & 20s understand depression and bipolar disorder.
Just for Kids- This site by the National Association for Children of Alcoholics supports kids in getting educated, feeling safer at home and finding hope, even if their parents don't change.
Kids Health- This site by Nemours offers portals for Kids, Teens, Parents & Educators and addresses a wide variety of health-related topics.
Mouse Party- Using fun, interactive graphics, Mouse Party is designed to provide a small glimpse into the chemical interactions at the synaptic level that cause the drug user to feel 'high'.
Teen Central- Kids Peace offers this highly interactive site focusing on a whole host of issues teens may be facing, from substance abuse and body image to military families and bullying. Teens can share their own stories.