As a teacher, you must navigate many things when educating young adults.
Connecting with your students and keeping them engaged while learning is not an easy task, but there are things you need to look out for to ensure the well-being of the individuals in your classroom. One of these things is signs of potential drug use.
The risk for drug use varies depending on the age of your students. Though you may feel your students are too young to experiment with drugs, recently, children as young as 15 suffered an overdose on school grounds, and one of them died.
Within any school, student drug use is often put in the same category as student safety and accident prevention. These are standard practices for the school staff.
School administrators, principals, and teachers are responsible for keeping students secure. In addition, federal and state laws help ensure schools remain drug-free. Teachers are responsible for reporting any drug use or addiction within the school, per internal guidelines and policies.
Symptoms & Behaviors to Look For
Ultimately, teachers will follow their instincts, but there are some common indicators to look for that become more pronounced the longer someone abuses drugs or alcohol.
Bloodshot eyes or dilated pinpoint pupils.
Frequent nose bleeds, coughing, sniffling, or a never-ending thirst.
Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, runny nose, sweating, vomiting, nausea, fatigue, muscle aches, and cramps.
Strange bruises or cuts on the skin or a flushed-looking face.
Abnormal behaviors include shaking, nervous tics, and drastic mood swings.
Some drugs show more noticeable physical signs than others, while other symptoms apply to virtually any illicit drugs.
Students may become overly protective of their space or things, such as their backpacks, desk, or lockers.
Interpersonal relationships may drastically change with regard to whom they are hanging out with.
They have become completely isolated from everyone.
Students begin to lose interest in extracurricular activities, such as sports or after-school programs. They may start to fail to show up to these activities.
Students begin to struggle academically, such as missing assignments and doing poorly on tests or exams.
Short-term memory problems also occur, which begins to impact academic performance.
Actions Educators Can Take
Depending on state laws and internal policies, there are some actions educators can take to help students who are struggling with addiction or substance use.
First, determine what made you think a student is using drugs or alcohol and document these observations. Once it has been clearly determined that a student is abusing drugs or alcohol, the educator is likely required to notify the school’s administration. In addition, there are likely requirements to inform the parents or legal guardians of the student.
If a student approaches a teacher about their drug or alcohol use, notify the administration. Follow policies laid out by your institution before contacting parents or guardians. Many students trust educators, which is why they feel safe approaching them about this problem. Do not keep secrets for the students because it negatively affects their wellbeing and could put your job in danger.
If a teacher encounters drugs or alcohol on school grounds, they should contact the proper authorities. Each school has different procedures in place to address drug and alcohol use on or off school grounds. Make sure you are well aware of your school’s policies. This is in the best interest of your students and will ensure you do not put your own job in jeopardy.