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5 Tips for Speaking to Your Students About Substance Use

If you’re a teacher, chances are you’ve been tasked with speaking to students about substance abuse. Although this is often a conversation that starts at home, for some students it may be the first time they are learning about substance abuse and its negative effects. That puts a lot of pressure on you when you’re trying to get through to the kids.  

In this brief article, a team member from our drug addiction treatment center in Tampa with Phoenix House Florida has shared a few tips to speak to your students about substance use and abuse in a positive way.

Tip 1: Avoid Scare Tactics

If you grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, chances are you sat through a “scared straight” presentation portraying substance use as a life-or-death decision. For some, the scared straight program worked, but for others it became a running joke. No matter how many times teens are shown mangled cars from drunk drivers or scary stories of drug abuse, studies show that scare tactics simply don’t work because teens are hardwired to defend against negative messaging. They’re smart and can realize when others are trying to manipulate them. For that reason, avoid using the tough tactics of yesteryear and instead opt for a more positive, open approach.

Tip 2: Be Honest and Open

If teens suspect that you’re lying, they’ll completely block out your message. While we don’t recommend telling them if you currently or previously used legal or illegal substances, we do recommend remaining open and honest about the effects of drugs on the body. That doesn’t necessarily mean telling them that alcohol can make them feel relaxed or that marijuana might make them get the munchies, but it does mean asking them what they think about drugs and alcohol and having an open dialogue. 

Tip 3: Be Aware of Possible Family History of Addiction

When you speak to your own kids at home about substance abuse, it can be easier to approach the subject because you know your own family history. But, as an educator, you may not be aware of every student’s home life. Their family may have a long and difficult history of substance abuse and addiction, so you’ll want to take care to approach the subject with respect.

Tip 4: Do Not Pass Judgment

If your students admit that they, or a family member, has a history of substance use or abuse, it’s not your job to pass judgment. If you are able to make a connection with your students during this discussion, encourage them to come see you after class to discuss any lingering thoughts or concerns they might have. And if they do, remember to be kind and empathetic. It’s easy to write off a student as a problem child or a lost cause when they admit to substance abuse, but it’s important to give them a safe space and safe person with whom to discuss their issues.

Tip 5: Provide Safe Resources

Once you’ve had the talk with your students, your class may not want to talk to you about it any further, and that’s okay. It’s important, however, to share helpful and safe resources with your class so that they can reach out for help for themselves or a friend on their own. 

One such resource for Tampa drug abuse treatment is Phoenix House Florida. The team at Phoenix House Florida can help teens and adults of all ages recover from addiction and learn healthy pathways in life. If you’d like more information on the program, don’t hesitate to reach out.   

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and need drug abuse treatment in Tampa, contact Phoenix House Florida. To schedule a consultation with Phoenix House Florida, please request an appointment today.


Disclaimer: The contents of this website are for general educational purposes only. All content and media on the Phoenix House Florida website does not constitute professional medical advice nor is the information intended to replace the services provided by Phoenix House Florida or other qualified medical professionals. If you believe you are having a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.

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