The Importance of Early Education of Addiction for Children

It is just so important to educate the younger generation about the perils of drug and alcohol addiction. Just a decade ago, traditional drug awareness programs typically started in high school. Now, these early education programs can begin as early as elementary school, as nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies unite to combat the scourge of drugs in Canada’s youth population.

The first and most important goal of these programs are to strip away any “glamour” or “prestige” that many youths associated with drug and alcohol abuse.  Peer pressure is a powerful influence on the very young. For teenagers, these drugs are seen as a way of acting older and gaining prestige and credibility with others in their groups of friends. In many ways, this desire to act older is a normal rite of passage for teenagers, but the stakes have been upped considerably with the addiction potential of drugs (follow CARN on Google+ and LinkedIn to be up-to-date on the matter: https://plus.google.com/104822832384279524047/about,https://www.linkedin.com/company/canadian-addiction-recovery-network).

That’s why many early education programs will focus on the ravages of drugs and the potential negative implications. These goes far beyond just lower grades, ruined relationships or less time for extracurricular activities – the negative consequences could involve arrest, prison time, or severe health consequences that result from overdoses. At times, the result could even be death. In short, educators want to emphasize that addiction can be destructive and dangerous.

For young children, a routine visit to the school by a local police officer to talk about what to watch out for may be enough to draw a link between “drugs” and “crime.” In other words, if you do drugs, you will have trouble with the police. For older kids about to enter high school, a school-wide drug awareness campaign may be effective in keeping drugs off the school premises. And, finally, for high school students, there may be more efforts to include drug awareness and education into the everyday curriculum.

One tactic that has proven successful – if a bit controversial – is the use of graphic images that show what happens to the bodies and minds of young people who use drugs These may show the victims of overdoses, or show the victims of car crashes who were using drugs or alcohol when they were behind the wheel of the vehicle. Again, the message is overwhelming and clear: “Do drugs, and awful things will happen to you.”

As they say it multiple times in sports, the best offense is a good defense. That’s why so much emphasis is placed on prevention rather than treatment. It’s much easier to prevent people from ever using drugs in the first place rather than treating the victims of drug and alcohol addiction.

For young children, one good “defensive” tactic to help them avoid drug use is giving them the tools to resist peer pressure. In the United States, for example, one of the most effective drug prevention programs ever run featured just three words: “Just say no.” It’s easier to say “no” to drugs than many kids think.

Another way to help kids avoid drugs is by creating stronger links between the school and family. Often, kids will turn to drugs if they do not have enough parental supervision, or if parents don’t know where the children are, and with whom they are meeting after school. So a much tighter feedback loop can be very effective to combat underage drug use.

Ultimately, it is very important to educate the young about drug and alcohol abuse. The earlier such programs can start, the better.

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