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Thumbs Up If You Discuss Sex, Drugs And Alcohol Explicitly.

Thumbs Up If You Discuss Sex, Drugs And Alcohol Explicitly.

Kudos to all teachers of junior high school and senior high school students  who know about  and talk to their teens about sex, alcohol and drug abuse. Yes, thumbs up to the exceptional teachers who make time to tell teens the truth about the ‘forbidden subjects’.

Some parents and teachers are of the view that it is when you talk to a teen about sex, drugs and alcohol that they are empowered to try them out wrongfully. Well, let’s take this example, teens are always told to learn hard all the time because it assures a secure future. Some do. What happened to the rest?

Aside the fact that there has not been any study that has found this fallacy to be true, whether you talk about it or not, teens will find out about it the wrong way. To be fair, it can be very challenging to figure out how to talk to teens about drugs, alcohol and sex in a way that won’t cause them to tune out. It is also difficult to know when students are in danger and when it is appropriate to intervene or let them their students know.

Again, most of these things happen off campus and aware from the glare of parents. Whatever the situation is, adolescent children are prone to the dangers that comes with sex, alcohol and drugs. As nurturers it is right that you start talking to students at an early stage (before they enter adolescence) because that is the time we have their attention. Research has shown that is better when these issues are discussed early and often using certain prescribed approaches.

In Ghana, the issue is usually up for discussion when students are caught in the act or have fallen into trouble as a result of drugs, alcohol or sex. An online source, proposes that teachers know the following approaches:

  • Focus should not be on morality but the dangers of the act

Some schools organize educational programs to discuss these issues but often the focus is on the legal or moral consequences of sex, drug and alcohol use. “You’ll go mad,”, ‘You will miss heaven’ they will say or   “you will end up in jail.” These are arguments they have teen have severally and perceive them as exaggerated or overly moralistic thus easily ignored as public health experts have said. Rather, talk about the scientifically proven dangers of these acts. Robert Vincent, a public health analyst with  Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, recommends that teens be spoken to explicitly about the connection between drugs, sex, alcohol and learning and the effects it has on the body. Facts and their sources should be incorporated into this talk and made available to them. An example being a study published in PubMed (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22669080 )that realized that people who used marijuana in their teenage years have up to an eight-point drop in their IQ even after they quit in adulthood. When teens hear this, they might be more likely to stay away or have good reasons to refuse to be pressurized by their peers.

  • It is not too early to start discussing drugs, alcohol, sex and prevention.

It has been established that by nine, children are introduced to alcohol and drugs on TV and even their parents. Daring children start to experiment. It is therefore not too early to talk about dangers and prevention especially when they own smart phones and others that brings good and bad things to their door steps. Teachers need to begin conversations with students by class four and class five and continue these conversations throughout their educational journey. A “one and done” approach does not work when it comes to drugs, sex and alcohol. The message needs to be hammered on at the least opportunity.

Note; Regular conversations about the dangers of drugs and alcohol can reduce the likelihood of teen use by as much as 42 percent according to The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse [NCASA]; 2011. According to the same report, teens who use drugs regularly are 65 percent more likely to develop an addiction than those who stay off using drugs until the age of 21, after which chances of addiction drop to 2 percent. Teachers and parents should address the issue several times a year in different ways—during, science or health class, during family nights or with an outside speaker.

  • Things have changed. Don’t Think you Know it All.

Drugs are more accessible and even stronger than they were thirty years ago. The marijuana in the system, for one, is up to three times more potent than the marijuana of 30 years ago. Legalization of some of these drugs in some countries, have added to the complexity of the matter but yet, many teens have not been made aware of the risks involved. They know more about the perceived advantages than they do about its dangers. It is the place of teachers and parents to make them aware of them. A national study titled, ‘Monitoring the Future’, conducted by the University of Michigan, found only 32 percent of high school seniors believe regular marijuana use could be harmful, down from 36 percent a year ago.

Another new cause of alarm is electronic cigarettes e.g. shisha. It may be less harmful than tobacco cigarettes but e-cigarettes still pose health risks. Most students who ‘vape’ add flavouring to their e-cigarettes. These include mint, strawberry and bubble gum. The thing is this flavouring leads users of e-cigarettes to believe that is as far more benign as they are. ‘Heroin use doubled in teens aged 12 and older, increasing from a steady 0.1 percent during the years 2002 to 2013 to 0.2 percent in 2014. Fatal heroin overdoses between the ages of 15 and 24 increased more than 250 percent between 1999 and 2009(the latest year available from this source- SAMHSA; 2014)

When talking to students therefore, don’t make assumptions based on your own teen experiences. There are new varieties of drugs available today which are more dangerous, even casual users are at risk.

  • Explain to Teens How their Brains work.

Until 25 or even later in slow developers, the brain is ‘under construction’. This means that the brain of teens is far from developed and their reactions are usually based on impulse and not rational especially when it is under stress or influence. The developing brain of teens encourage them to take absurd risks and try out new things no matter how harmful. Talk with teens about neurology and development. Also, discuss ways that teens can release stress naturally—through exercise, spending time with friends, and doing things they love. Make sure to still pay attention while they are it.

  • Anyone can become an Addict. Addiction does not discriminate.

Sometimes teachers make the mistake in thinking that honour students, or students from particular backgrounds, family with high income, class or race cannot be addicted. We miss drug or alcohol problems in our students because of these assumptions, thinking. Detecting abuse is not that simple. Usually the more affluent, the more problematic. So then, worrisome signs should not be quickly dismissed because you feel like “drugs can’t be taken in that family” or “not that brilliant student.” Keep an eye out for any of the symptoms of addiction you know and read about others in the next article because believe it or not, you do not know all the signs.

  • You can make a difference.

Active discussion about healthy choices and positive after-school activities is key in this process. Davis, a public health expert believes that it is more about getting teens engaged in things that are important to them and allowing them to be cool without resorting to drugs, alcohol and sex.

Teachers must teach teens to take risks but only after they have been taught to decipher between danger and healthy risk. Remember not to use the “one and done” approach. Teens face pressure every day therefore prevention and education efforts need to be ongoing and inculcated in school culture. It’s only through systematic approaches that you can help your students stay free from addiction.

August 17, 2017

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