Back-to-school season has kicked summer to the curb. In true fashion, the mundane season has its peaks; the summer woes will soon come to an end as fall parties and functions commence.
But for some students, the reality of strapping on those backpacks and gearing for a new school year can also mean attaching to the old baggage of past peer pressure, substance abuse, and addiction.
Although school is supposed to set the foundation for adulthood and real-world circumstances, it can also be the vicinity for early drug abuse for adolescents.
According to the US Department of Education 2010 report, “Recovery/Relapse Prevention in Educational Settings,” drug abuse in adolescents, ages 12 to 17, has a profound effect on their educational performance. One-third of school dropouts said their use of alcohol and drugs was an important contributor to their decision to leave school, according to JustThinkTwice.
Not only does adolescent drug addictions prohibit students from fulfilling their academic goals, but they also play a huge role in the relatively high relapse rates among young adults. The department of education’s report placed post first-year treatment relapse for youth at a staggering 60 to 70 percent, a 20 percent increase from the national relapse average of 40 to 60 percent.
So does this mean that students struggling with drug abuse are doomed in their attempt on the straight and narrow?
No, not necessarily.
Youth relapse may be a concern for those trying to remain abstinent from alcohol and drugs while combating the pressures of school and adolescence. But in recent years, there has been a response from the US government and schools to keep students from getting caught in the whirlwind of addiction.
Throughout this three-part series, we will examine how school, holidays, and toxic relationships affect youth relapse, as well as some of the ways students can prevent relapse from occurring.
Truth or D.A.R.E.: Schools Crack into Prevention Methods
Recall the slogan, “Just Say No”?
Millennials who attended elementary school in the late ‘80s and ‘90s may remember D.A.R.E., or the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, which was often facilitated by local police officers and school administrators. The program, which was created in 1983 by Los Angeles Police Chief Daryl Gates, was aimed at diminishing the rising drug busts on school campuses during President Ronald Reagan’s expansion of the War on Drugs, according to a Priceonomics article.
The preventative method was adorned with youthful propaganda, including a retro red and black T-shirt donning the D.A.R.E. acronym, a lion mascot, and other various school supplies and rewards. D.A.R.E. officers would often role-play with children and pretend to be a notorious street dealer offering the student drugs. The student would have to respond to the officer by using the resistance techniques they were taught in the drug-education program. Afterward, the student would get accolades from their peers and the officers for resisting the faux drug bargain. This role-play simulator exhibited the two main models of the program: self-esteem and resistance.
Throughout the ‘90s, D.A.R.E. expanded from a local program to a nationwide implementation, costing the government millions of dollars to run. At its peak, D.A.R.E. was being practiced at 75 percent of schools throughout America, according to Priceonomics.
It seemed as if the government had finally found the antidote to adolescent drug abuse and youth relapse.
There was just one problem—the program didn’t work.
As scientists began to evaluate the social model behind D.A.R.E., they often found no real evidence of the program working. Actually, the program sometimes had a boomerang effect on students in areas where youth relapse and addictions were on a steady rise.
According to an article on Gallup.com, “Decades of Drug Use: The ‘80s and ‘90s,” while the use of marijuana and cocaine began to decline in the late ‘90s, studies found that the use of crystal meth and ecstasy among high school students more than doubled between 1990 and 1996.
The party-drug culture that celebrated pill poppin’ and snorting would only give way to a more aggressive monster toward the turn of the new millennium: prescription pills.
Unscrewing the lid of Youth Relapse among Millennials
So it’s the early 2000s, and our nation has suddenly become intrigued by a new generation of youth, whose only resemblance to past generations is their population in comparison to baby boomers.
Teens and young adults begin to take the reins on defining themselves, “Livin’ La Vida Loca”—literally.
According to Drug War Facts, a 2012 study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found that for the past seven years, 60 percent of high school students said they attend a drug-infected school.
And the drug of choice?
Opioids, hallucinogens, and marijuana are en route for “Most Popular” at schools across the US.
According to a 2016 survey published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), marijuana had a 58 percent prevalence among 12th-graders. NIDA also reported a 2015 study done by the University of Michigan that found of the 12th-graders abusing prescription drugs, almost 60 percent had access to the narcotics through a friend at school.
In recent years, schools have responded to this outburst of addiction and relapse at schools by developing a new atmosphere for students in recovery.
Since most youth relapse is attributed to peer pressure and environment, recovery high schools in states such as Florida, Minnesota, and Washington are influencing the abstinence, education and behavioral therapy of teens in recovery.
Although, this phenomenon has yet to be accepted nationally as only 36 of these schools exist in the US, students in recovery are learning to take their relapse more seriously. A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) showed that students enrolled in recovery high schools remain abstinent on average of 266 days since first entering the school.
Yet, as the nation still struggles to grapple with opioid abuse among teenagers and young adults, the progression of the school year in the fall semester may pose an even greater threat.
Stay tuned next week on Friday, Sept. 23, for Part 2, “Youth in Recovery: Holidays Gift Depression, Relapse,” an article on the holidays’ effect on youth relapse and suicide.
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