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Substance Abuse and the Classroom: 5 Signs Teachers Should Watch For

Substance Abuse and the Classroom: 5 Signs Teachers Should Watch For

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, one in three Alabama high school students has smoked marijuana, one in 10 has used inhalants, and one in five reports drinking alcohol before age 13.

Addressing the drug crisis among children and adolescents requires more than stern lectures and anti-drug posters. It requires awareness. Because teachers often spend more waking hours with children than the parents do, they often are the first to spot problems. Still, it can be difficult to pinpoint what’s causing the problem – and whether drugs or alcohol are involved.

Latrice Dailey is an adolescent counselor at Beacon Recovery, a UAB Medicine-affiliated outpatient substance abuse treatment program for adults and teens age 13 to 18. She shares the following five signs that a student may have a substance abuse problem:

  1. Academic nosedive: If your “A” student becomes a “B” or “C” student, the drop in performance could signal drug or alcohol use.
  2. Acting out: Behavioral problems can be an indicator of addiction.
  3. Physical transformation: Substance use and abuse can cause rapid weight loss, bloodshot eyes, dilated pupils, and nosebleeds.
  4. Changes in grooming: If a normally well-groomed student begins looking disheveled or seems to be skipping showers, alcohol or drugs could be the culprit.
  5. Switching friends: It’s natural for friendships to shift over time, but a student who withdraws or begins hanging out with an unruly crowd may be struggling with substance abuse.

Each of these indicators could have other root causes – family problems or sexual abuse, for example – but they are worth further exploration. Dailey recommends that teachers who see something should say something.

“Talk to the student’s counselor and ask them to probe a bit more,” she advises. Beacon Recovery uses the CRAFFT Screening Test to identify students who may need the center’s services, and Dailey suggests that school counselors use this two-part, nine-question assessment to determine if a student is at risk for a substance abuse disorder.

If you suspect your child has a substance abuse issue, call UAB Beacon Recovery at 205-917-3733, extension 103, to schedule an evaluation.