Drugs in Schools: The Connection Between Academic Failure and Use

1 in 7 students walk away from academic achievement and drop out of high school. 42 percent of those drops out drink alcohol. Another 10 percent take prescription drugs and 27 percent marijuana.

Drugs in schools have a direct effect on the children and teens who use them.

Teens sneak drugs in school for recreational use in all sorts of ways. They hide them under sports bandages while faking injuries, lunch bags, and underclothes. And for the most part, teens believe certain drugs are safe.

Youths 12 to 17 believe using prescription drugs is okay because they’re doctor prescribed. So they abuse them by mixing them with other drugs—alcohol and smokes.

Drugs in school are more than a legal problem. They’re a scholastic concern that’s plaguing children and teens. Learn more about the connection here.

Academic Aftermath of Drugs in Schools

Drug abuse affects short and long-term cognition. Teens under the influence of drugs find it difficult to process knowledge. The ability to understand simple thought deteriorates.

Basic behavioral survival relies on memory and learning

. Substance abuse impacts both by impairing cognition. Stimulant drugs like nicotine and methamphetamine create cognitive deficits. They can cause an A-student to fail in a short span of time.

The problem is a temporary positive effect. Because nicotine is a stimulant, it does have positive effects on cognition. These effects create a false sense of help. Teens who become chronic smokers become tolerant to nicotine.

Once the body becomes tolerant, prolonged periods without nicotine does the reverse on cognition. Apprehension, learning, and understanding take a plummet, which affects mood and behavior.

Parents must take action when they notice a sudden change in mood and performance.

Teenage Brain Development and Drugs

In the first three to five years of life, brain development accelerates. By age 9, preteen brains have the basic building blocks to make humane decisions.

Puberty and social maturity happen faster in some kids. For this reason, people assume they have well-developed brains. Not so. The brain does not finish developing until adults reach the age of 30.

Introducing drugs during teen development years alters the brain and affects its functions. A teenager with a drug-impacted brain may find it difficult to learn simple academics.

They find it hard to concentrate and reason due to memory loss. The ability to process information declines. And, they become lazy during drug cessation periods.

Common Drugs Abused By Students

Kids and teens use drugs that are easily accessible. To the regret of school officials, they don’t find out about drugs on campus until it’s too late.

Alcohol, weed, cigs, scripts, and OTCs are common ways kids get high in school.

Alcohol Abuse

Teens as young as 8th grade get drunk and abuse alcoholic beverages. Yes, alcohol consumption has declined by 8.2% over the past five years.

Yet, there’s still a large percentage of teenagers who binge drink.

Binge drinking affects health, relationships, and academics. Students who drink on a regular basis, withdraw from those closest to them. Their dietary habits change and they focus less on their school work.


Known as weed amongst teens, marijuana is the fun drug. Teens see it as a harmless, natural way to get high.

Marijuana use impacts specific parts of the brain. It alters the parts of the brain that aid in learning, memory function, and decision making. A brain that succumbs to marijuana has trouble processing emotions and reaction time.

The limbic system acts as the emotion center of the brain. During development, it helps teens process emotion. Because most teens function off their feelings, any long-term inhibitor can alter the way they learn.

The long-term effects of marijuana do just that.

OTC and Prescription Drugs

Teenagers view physician-prescribed drugs as safe. They’ve seen someone in the home take prescription drugs to get well. And with their underdeveloped brains, they believe these drugs are okay.

About two million teens in America suffer from ADHD. So getting ahold of drugs like Adderall and Ritalin isn’t impossible. Teens use these drugs to get a jump–quick bursts of energy and alertness.

Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines are drugs of choice amongst teens. Most of them contain dextromethorphan. High doses of dextromethorphan put the brain in a state of euphoria. In other words, it’s a quick way to get high.

The downside to teens using these kinds of drugs is the possibility of brain damage. There’s also the risk of memory loss and deterioration of focus.

All of these drugs affect academics and student performance. Find out if your student has access to any of these legalized substances.

When It’s Time to Get Help

Over time, teens who abuse drugs morph into states of depression. They withdraw from positive relationships as their social circles change.

Drugs users prefer the company of other users. The absence of judgment and moral responsibility makes it easy to continue using. Teen users who thrive in these types of social groups began to devalue education and academic structure.

Behavioral problems arise as they rebel against safe, moral boundaries and correction. Drug-influenced teens lie and steal. They’ll start cutting classes. Cutting classes lead to skipping school which ultimately leads to them dropping out.

Teens under the influence of drugs develop a total disdain for social norms.

If you notice your teen transforming from a social butterfly to an absent loner, it’s time to get help. If they pull away from healthy relationships, get help. Ditching a childhood best friend to hang with a crowd you don’t know should sound an alarm.

Unprovoked anger, anxiety, and depression are also signs your teen has fallen under the influence.

Don’t wait until they flunk out or walk away from education to see the signs. Stay in tune with your teen and seek the help of a professional as soon as signs appear.

Know the Connection

Drugs in schools lead to a decline in academic performance and achievement. Students under the influence of drugs find it difficult to maintain a drug habit and good grades.

Watch for the signs of abuse in your teen. Contact a professional counselor for help right away.

Looking for the right drug and alcohol treatment? Contact us today for insight into how we can help.


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