For Teachers

Your school plays an important role in the lives of your students! If you’re an educator looking for ideas to spark classroom discussion on drugs, we encourage you to visit  these quick links:

Smart Moves, Smart Choices
Start Talking
Parent/Teacher Resources section of the National Institute on Drug Abuse

Key Risk Periods
Research has shown that the key risk periods for drug abuse are during major transitions in children’s lives. The first big transition for children is when they leave the security of the family and enter school. Later, when they advance from elementary school to middle school, they often experience new academic and social situations, such as learning to get along with a wider group of peers. It is at this stage—early adolescence—that children are likely to encounter drugs for the first time.

When they enter high school, adolescents face additional social, emotional, and educational challenges. At the same time, they may be exposed to greater availability of drugs, drug abusers, and social activities involving drugs. These challenges can increase the risk that they will abuse alcohol, tobacco, and other substances.

When young adults leave home for college or work and are on their own for the first time, their risk for drug and alcohol abuse is very high. Consequently, young adult interventions are needed as well.


Risk and Protective Factors
Risk factors can increase a person’s chances for drug abuse, while protective factors can reduce the risk. Please note, however, that most individuals at risk for drug abuse do not start using drugs or become addicted. Also, a risk factor for one person may not be for another.

Risk and protective factors can affect children at different stages of their lives. At each stage, risks occur that can be changed through prevention intervention. Early childhood risks, such as aggressive behavior, can be changed or prevented with family, school, and community interventions that focus on helping children develop appropriate, positive behaviors. If not addressed, negative behaviors can lead to more risks, such as academic failure and social difficulties, which put children at further risk for later drug abuse. (National Institute of Drug Abuse) For more information on risk and protective factors click here.

Teachers may be the first adults to see changes in an adolescent. It’s important to know what to look for!
Sudden changes in behavior can be a clue that there is drug abuse, especially with adolescents.

  • New friends, new flashy clothes
  • Keeping late hours can be a  sign
  • Other indications include sudden decline in academic performance
  • Lack of interest in known hobbies
  • Borrowing of money
  • Changes of mood, as in moodiness, unexplainable euphoria, sleeping in

Signs of Opiate Abuse:

  • Heroin or other opiates will cause the person to have constricted pupils, which will appear like pinpoints or small dots
  • Another clue is that someone on opiates will usually itch and scratch frequently.
  • Do they nod off, or dope off, in inappropriate circumstances?
  • Opiates affect people in different ways: some may get very “hyper” (active or frantic) and run around working or looking busy while others get very lethargic (nodding or doping off).
  • Depending on how the person is using the drug, their nose may be red and raw, if snorting, or they will have needle marks on their arms, behind the knees or ankles.
  • Do they wear long sleeve shirts even in hot weather to cover their arms?
  • Very sick one day, cold symptoms, cramps, diarrhea, upset stomach, then perfectly fine the next day
  • They may or not be very pale, sweating when the temperature is not hot.
  • The person may go around asking others for money. This will not be small change for cigarettes, but more like $20 or $40 here or there.
  • Extremely thirsty

Signs of Opiate Abuse Withdrawals:
If someone is withdrawing from opiate abuse, they will show these signs:

  • Flu-like symptoms,
  • Cramps,
  • Nausea and diarrhea.

These will disappear immediately after using again. They are usually very thirsty. (This information is from the Narcanon Website.)

If you see any of these signs of opiate abuse, get help. The drug addict can’t quit on their own. Click here for a list of local treatment providers. Or call 211, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.