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Substance abuse to blame for school dropouts in U.S.?

Education has always featured as an important criterion for social and psychological developments of a child. Every child is seen as a participant in this exciting period of global change and continuous innovation. However, school dropout rates have been a concern in the United States for more than two decades now. Although some progress has been made, the problem still persists at enormous levels.

According to the 2015 report of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 90 percent of the 42 million 10- to 19-year-olds are enrolled at schools. These children and teens spend most of their time in schools and are significantly influenced by the peers and culture prevailing in schools. However, the irony is that a significant number of students abuse substances like alcohol, tobacco, heroin, marijuana or other drugs.

The Trust for America’s Health’s “Reducing Teen Substance Misuse: What Really Works” report says that more than 65 percent of students have used alcohol, more than 40 percent used illegal drugs and around one quarter used cigarettes at some point before entering or while in high school. While a variety of factors contribute to higher likelihood of dropping out of schools (including family factors, socioeconomic status, lack of interest in studies, type of a particular school, social pressures etc.), substance misuse is also a key component of student dropouts.

The report, cited above, also highlights that in the U.S. more than 1 million students drop out of high school every year, or approximately 7,000 students every day. Moreover, around 20 percent of students do not graduate from high school — with the rate being higher (30 percent) among low income students. Twelfth graders who do not complete high school (ages 16 to 18) are almost twice as likely to currently use cigarettes (56.8 percent versus 22.4 percent), illicit drugs (31.4 percent versus 18.2 percent), marijuana (27.3 percent versus 15.3 percent) and nonmedical prescription drugs (9.5 percent versus 5.1 percent). Students who do not complete high school also have higher rates of alcohol use and binge drinking.

Substance use as a risk factor for dropouts

The role of substance use as a contributory factor for dropout cannot be denied. Moreover, clinical experiences with substance-using adolescents reinforce the notion that drug use leads to decrease in academic motivation, study habits, and goal-setting. Adolescents in their recovery report stated that as their drug use problem escalated, they became completely disinterested in school and found it much easier to affiliate with drug-using peers than academically achieving students, a study done by the Institute for Behavior and Health and the Center on Young Adult Health and Development in 2013 highlighted.

Students who are less motivated than other students, not interested in studying, or chronically skipping class, getting lesser academic grades are well accepted to be at high risk for dropout. All students with early signs of academic difficulties should be comprehensively assessed and carefully and specifically screened for drug and alcohol use.

Substance use is predominant among high school students in the U.S. and it is important to administer innovative solutions within high schools. Positive behavior and school climate improvement initiatives help in preventing substance use while improving attendance, school performance and graduation rates. School systems are also working to develop systems and models that align health and education together. In fact, a positive school environment can support social and emotional learning; improve school connectedness; ingrain positive behavioral attitudes. These things can help families better understand their child’s learning and mental health needs and help staff understand and respond to diverse cultures, backgrounds and needs of students.

Since substance use has risen dramatically in the country in the past few years, President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address in January 2016, has pledged to bring reforms in the lives of those people who are battling prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse. He has particularly drawn attention to the rising opioid crisis.

If you want to do your bit in controlling the numbers of substance abuse in students, please seek medical assistance if you know a student who’s in need of supervision for his/her inclination towards substance use. The experts at 24/7 Recovery Helpline are willing to help. You just need to connect via online chat or call us at 855-441-4405.

Do remember – your one small step can be a giant leap for all those students who have been battling substance abuse.

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