Question of the Week

March 29, 2004


At the beginning of the month I asked for what you had to say. I asked you to share "ideas, hints, tips, suggestions, even lesson plans" for what you thought would be the best way to educate others about the health and safety issues associated with drug and alcohol use. To see the original message, you can access it at:

Not all submissions could be included here, and not everything could be included in it's entirety. Thank you to all those who took the time to write in. Now, on to what the students had to say: While some students included specific ideas for high schoolers,

Angelica--age 16 from Arizona--suggested starting a bit younger:
"I believe kids should start to learn about drugs at an early age, when they are most impressionable. By the time kids enter 6th grade they will know someone who either uses drugs and alcohol or will be approached to try. Therefore I believe there should be a 4 year program before kids are in a 'choose or lose situation.'
3rd grade- Have speakers that will talk about drugs and alcohol. Have speakers such as sports players, kids look up to them. Read true stories about the effects drugs and alcohol has. Make sure they understand and are aware of drugs and alcohol. Have discussions with the students and have parents come in. Parents are a big part andtalking is more effective than adults think!

4th grade- Have more speakers because its effective. But have the speakers be more intense on there stories. Tell them facts and statistics then have them decide what facts are true and false.

5th grade- have them look up facts.  Then have them write a page essay on how there life will be if they do drugs and drink and where they could  be if they don't.

6th grade- Do a report on drugs and alcohol or and essay to persuade friends not to use drugs or drink alcohol.  Write about why they should not drink or do drugs. Scenario set ups, such has what they would do in certain situations. Finally visit a rehabilitation center to interview a
past addict."

D.A.R.E. is taught at different grades in different communities, but generally students get this information before junior high.
One student remembered:
"My D.A.R.E. officer is who I remember the most. He told us, 'When asked to take drugs, consider this: Who do you want to know that you are on drugs? You parents? Your friends. How would you feel if your little brother or sister saw you? Or how would you feel if your grandparents knew? If you don't want everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, to know you are a druggie, then why become one?' Recently my older brother has gotten mixed up with drugs. He has twice went into a seizure, one because he mixed weed with speed and once because he took muscle relaxers while smoking weed. He is now drug free, and my mom has entered him into a rehabilitation program. However, he tells us he stays off of the drugs because of his constant support that he gets from us that lets him know that he doesn't need them. In a lesson plan, I would walk through what a person who is hooked on drugs life. I would show them that they have no money because the are constantly doing drugs and I would let them know of the constant craving that they have. Then I would let them know of the good life they would have if they were drug free. Most of all I would make sure that they knew how loved that they were, by their family, their friends, even their teachers at school."

Whether the students are eight or eighteen, whatever is being taught needs to get their attention.

One student suggested:
"The way I would teach teens to listen not to smoke, drink or do drugs is by showing them a lot of pictures. I am a teen and what grabs my attention is pictures of people that smoke, drink or do drugs that have illnesses. So I could see what happened to them and I would think 'I don't want that to happen to me.' I think teens pay a lot of attention to what they see. Especially in television. When I see commercials with facts of people who smoke, drink or do drugs and they say they have illnesses I start paying attention. Especially when they show you pictures."

Jenniffer, a student in the ninth grade in Arizona, wrote:
"When I think about drugs and alcohol the main thing that sticks in my head is that it is bad for you and it can even kill you. At the moment of deciding to do anything with this subject I think is this really what I want in my life. Is this really the path I want my life to follow? ...what about a week, month, or year later? I know it won't do my life any good so I don't make it a problem. I would make the students bring in a picture of someone they care a lot about in their life. Then set up funeral plans, cards, invitations, grocery lists etc. for that person. That might upset them and make them have a second choice of making a bad decision. I would tell them all the things it does to your brain, heart body, and what family members might think after words...."

Sean-Christopher wrote:
"What mostly sticks in my mind was when my mom constantly addresses the negatives of drugs and alcohol. Whenever I am in a position of peer pressure, my head is always filled with the thoughts of unfortunate events that may come to be if I accept. I would be the teacher of safety issues with alcohol and drug related topics. I would present to the students the effects of long term results of abuse because that subject is the most interesting to me...."

Another student wrote:
"...The things that stick to me the most are commercials. I remember those because they look so real and give you visual consequences...."

But not everyone thinks that the commercials are the way to go.

Allison, a senior in Arizona, wrote:
"I mostly remember being told the honest truth about what drug and alcohol abuse from my parents and teachers. I think that teachers should be trained to talk to kids about this stuff. If the kids know that there is someone nearby, other than their parents or peers, than maybe they will be more comfortable with asking questions. I understand how it can be difficult to ask your friends or parents about issues such as drugs or alcohol. Its hard to talk to your parents about issues that could be dangerous for you, because you don't want to be interrogated or misinformed due to some biased opinions on their part. Most kids feel uncomfortable talking to their peers about this stuff, because you don't want to come off as being 'uncool' for not already knowing about drugs and alcohol. As a teenager you can be prone to caring too much about everyone's opinions of you and you may not want to share what you think. From my experiences, I have seen that most PSAs irritate kids. They come off like the whole situation is being 'dumbed down' for us to understand.

I personally have never learned anything from them, I find them rather cheesy. You don't need any famous people to tell kids not to smoke pot or anything of that nature. You need some everyday heroes, like teachers or people from the community, to talk to these kids face to face about the drug and alcohol issues. I am very comfortable talking to my teacher about these issues, and he is perfectly honest with me about drugs. He is willing to speak with me one on one and help me understand what drugs can do to your body. Another way to get through to people is to have their peers talk to them about what they think about drugs. I don't mean any assemblies which would take away from class time, but students need to know that their feedback can affect whether their friends abuse drugs or not."

But it is not just high school teachers who students remember as helping them with issue related to drugs.

Carmen, a student from Arizona, wrote:
"I think what I remember the most are my elementary teachers, because they were always saying that drugs will never take us anywhere, that they will make us do things that can affect our lives forever. If I had to create a lesson where I was in charge of educating others about the health and safety issues associated with drug and alcohol use I will probably make like an activity where everybody will be doing what they love to do or want to do in the future and then tell them that the use of drugs or alcohol can take away their dreams in few seconds. For example, I'm an athlete and I that if I use drugs is like if I'm killing myself because is like if I'm given my future away. My idea to this, is that I think there should be more places where the community can go and have fun and at the
same time tell that drugs can blew away there dreams or goals that they have."

Another student also saw looking to the future as a way to make clear decisions right now.
"...I have been asked to try them but my ideas and goals are too clear, I know what I want in my life and drugs are not in my plans. I love my parents, my brothers, my friends and my family in general, they have taught me many things. I've learned from their good and bad experiences, they trust me, and using drugs would be like betraying them. If I were in charge of educating others about the health and safety issues associated with drug and alcohol use, I would talk to them about others' experiences, how they got addicted to drugs and could not stop using them afterwords. I would also ask about their families and their feelings, ask about any dreams or goals they had or have and help them try to achieve them...."

Having read what other students have to say:

Questions of the Week:
How do these ideas compare with your own? How can you determine what would work best in your community? What would work best with your peers? What can you do to help? Again, thank you to all those who took the time to write in and share ideas.

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

[email protected]
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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