Parents of middle school children in the Stanly, North Carolina area have a new way to strengthen their family and prevent substance misuse. A new drug education program has been developed to help families with children ages 10–14 in the area, according to an article in the Stanly News and Press. The program is 12 weeks long and is designed to help families grow closer and learn to manage challenges together. The program is free of charge so families can participate regardless of income.

Every session follows a similar format. The session begins with a family meal for the entire class. Then, teens go to one classroom and adults go to another. They learn material designed for their age group and needs. Finally, all family members come back together to practice what they’ve learned. 

At the end of the 12 weeks, all families are invited to participate in a weekend retreat. The retreat offers more family bonding time. Families get the chance to put their lessons to use in real-life moments. Each family is also invited to work together with community professionals. Together, they put on a presentation about drug use prevention for the community.

Many aspects of this program are done in a classroom setting and wouldn’t be repeatable at home. However, the program includes several elements the family can develop into habits, such as:

  • Regular family meals to promote conversation and connection
  • Camping weekend to promote fun family time and strengthen bonds
  • Roleplay for drug abuse scenarios, which the family could use in discussions at home
  • Use of family strengths, which the family can continue to identify after the class ends
  • Experience talking about tough situations like teen substance abuse, encouraging trust and decreasing stigma

Kids On Drugs

Drug use in middle school can pave the way to addiction if not caught early. Research over the last few decades has shown important trends and changes in youth drug use. Understanding how kids get started on drugs can make it easier to create better treatment and prevention programs.

According to the 2018 Monitor the Future survey, the most critical change in teen drug use is the significant rise in vaping. Of the eighth-graders surveyed in 2018, 17.6% vaped in the past year. Vaping is more widespread than ever before, and reported use has been increasing each year. 

The 2018 report showed lower rates of use among eighth-graders for other widely used drugs: 

  • Monthly marijuana use has steadily increased since 1993. However, daily use among eighth-graders has decreased. 
  • Binge drinking, which is five or more drinks in one sitting, has decreased from 13.3% to 3.7%. The most significant drop occurred in the last five years.
  • The use of all illicit drugs other than marijuana has decreased.

Some distressing situations can make drug addiction in youth more likely. According to an article in the Journal of Early Adolescence, middle school youth who experience some form of peer victimization are at the greatest risk for substance misuse.

Physical aggression and relational bullying are two forms of peer victimization examined in this study. Physical aggression includes actions like kicking, shoving or hitting. Relational bullying or victimization includes any behavior done by a peer meant to harm the target’s social status. Positive social support by adults and other peers lessens the chance that a teen will start using substances. However, this support was less helpful for teens who had been victimized. 

The experience of being victimized by peers has a strong effect on whether teens will start using substances, according to the same article in the Journal of Early Adolescence. This data mirrors the broad connection between mental health disorders and substance misuse. This connection means that teens who have been victimized are more likely to self-medicate with substances.

Opioid Epidemic

The family drug education program from Stanly was created to address the opioid crisis in that community. Stanly is one of the many communities across the United States facing the opioid abuse epidemic

Heroin is an illicit opioid drug that is used widely across the United States. Methadone is a synthetically made opioid used to treat heroin addiction. However, it is similar to heroin and can be misused as well. Many opioids can be legally obtained by prescription. Opioids are often used legitimately to treat pain.

These drugs are often overprescribed by doctors. Illicit versions are sold illegally on the streets. Teens who get prescription opioids sometimes sell them at school. These teens introduce other young people to these powerful drugs.  

In 2016, 3.6% of adolescents ages 12–17 reported misusing opioids over the last year. The majority of this misuse is from prescription opioids. Teens most at risk for misusing opioids are likely to have problems with short-term or long-term pain. These teens also have physical health issues, a history of mental health problems and other substance use. Prescription opioid use may begin for legitimate reasons. However, any use that is not closely watched by adults and doctors can easily become a bigger problem.

According to the National Institute of Health, in 2015, 3,408 young people ages 15–24 died from an overdose from heroin or other illicit opioids. These opioid deaths do not include the portion of deaths related to prescription opioids.

This death rate statistic relates to an age group older than middle school teens. However, the numbers show the danger of opioid use continuing from the late teen years into early adulthood. The middle school years clearly offer an important opportunity. Teens and their families can be strengthened against the risk of opioid misuse.

Preventing Teen Substance Abuse

Many schools and community programs support the prevention of substance abuse. However, the tips below focus on how to specifically guard against opioid misuse and possible addiction.

These helpful tips can help you prevent drug use in your family:

  • Develop trust as a family to talk openly about drugs
  • Monitor your children’s friendships to be sure they associate with other kids making healthy choices
  • Teach middle school kids to resist peer pressure from other teens who may offer them drugs
  • Join a family education program like the one in Stanly or find out what’s available at your local school or community health centers
  • Be sure your teen’s social life includes many safe nurturing people
  • Monitor your own substance use to provide a positive example of safety and responsibility

Special tips for preventing opioid misuse include the following:

  • If your teen uses prescription medication to treat pain, do so with caution. Be sure medication use is monitored by medical professionals and family members.
  • Understand the potential for opioids to be misused even if the use begins for legitimate reasons. Talk to your teen about this, so they learn how to use medication safely.
  • Monitor and closely manage any opioid prescriptions in your family. Properly dispose of any unused medication.

Talk About Teen Substance Abuse Today

If you have concerns about how to talk to your kids about drugs, the professionals at The Recovery Village can help. If you have concerns your child may already be misusing drugs, please call The Recovery Village today. Staff members can take your call at any time of the day. Don’t hesitate to get the answers you need about preventing or managing teen substance abuse.