Addiction prevention uses health promotion strategies to help prevent or minimise the harms associated with substance use among students. Substance use in school will be the only addiction listed in this section although it is acknowledged that there are several other teenage addictions.Teachers are well placed to notice the changes caused by substances on their students. Common features include unexplainable anxiety and agitation, irritability, withdrawal, mood swings, irrational or aggressive behaviour as well as changes in the student’s usual application to their work. Teachers, depending on their relationship with a young person, are also more likely to be a first port of call either by the young person concerned or, more often, by their friends.
4 facts in 4 areas
Identifying teenage substance use at school may be difficult but some of the warning signs include:
- Changes in school performance to include loss of concentration, altered or chaotic performance, difficulty sticking to deadlines, lack of engagement.
- Frequently missing classes or missing school.
- Conduct disorders or increased conduct disorders in students with ADHD, reduced inhibitions.
- Risk behaviour including self-harm.
2. Physical Factors
- Changes in weight and appetite.
- Strangely wired or tired and without energy.
- May present with a lot more physical illness, headaches, stomach complaints absences from school due to illness.
- Blood shot eyes, variation in pupil size, nasal damage.
3. Psychological changes
- Less able to concentrate and memory changes.
- Easily irritable and angry.
- Paranoid thinking.
- Depression or euphoria.
- Anxiety/Panic attacks.
4. Social Factors
- Friends may present with concerns.
- Withdrawal from social group.
- Forming new friendships.
- In a group of friends who may carry out risk behaviour are known to push boundaries.
What can schools do?
– 4 suggestions for change
- Education on addiction.
- A clear and effective system to support a student who presents with an addiction.
- A named teacher and peer supporter from a core team of trained staff and students to be available should help be needed.
- Establish links with local services and know what the referral pathways are. Get a professional to help assess risk.