How should schools address drug abuse?

How should schools address drug abuse?

There are increased reports of a dangerous trend on the rise again – students engaging in substance abuse.

Cases of increased ‘chroming’ by students were revealed in Queensland following a Department of Youth and Justice report last week.

Also known as huffing, sniffing or rexing, chroming is a form of volatile substance abuse involving inhaling solvents or other household chemicals to get high. The worrying trend last made headlines in 2017 when two teenagers died from inhaling toxic chemical fumes.

The Queensland government report found that more teenagers were caught inhaling solvents in 2018 than in 2017, when the practice was labelled an “epidemic”.

In April, Queensland’s Minister for Child Safety, Youth and Women, Di Farmer, said there was an 80% spike in young people chroming from the previous year.

Even before the student chroming issue was making headlines, principals were no strangers to drug and alcohol problems occurring on school premises­. There have been multiple reports over the years of drug-dealing or overdosing students.

In 2015, NSW schools saw 377 drug-related incidents – a 10-year high, according to the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. That same year, the NSW Department of Education also reported 20 students being suspended each week for either possessing or using drugs.

Another report, by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), found that since 2016, the average age of young people aged 14 and up who begin using drugs is 19.7. This is already considered as the oldest average age since 1995.

AIHW also noted a decline among those aged 12-24 who have experimented with drugs since 2001. Likewise, those aged 18-24 – the most likely to have used illicit drugs in the past 12 months – saw a decline from 37% in 2001 to 28% in 2016.

Why students want to get high
A 2013 study by the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Social Research found that drug users from ages 16-24 do it to deal with stress or build and maintain relationships. Some also admitted drugs merely as a form of entertainment.

However, other students use drugs to boost their academic performance.

Prevention over cure
As early as 2016, a private school mulled having their students drug tested after two teens were caught in possession of cannabis. In March this year, South Australian principals were given the nod to deploy drug-sniffing dogs with the aim of deterring the proliferation of drugs in its schools.

However, some chemicals used in chroming are not illegal at all. Substances such as nail polish, glue and paint can be carried in students’ bags and used for the purpose of getting high.

So, what can be done?

According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation (ADF), young people are more likely to follow the rules if their family, community and school coordinate their messages about the dangers of consuming illegal substances and alcohol.

Aside from encouraging parents to reach out to each other and schools, ADF said alcohol and drug topics should also be discussed throughout the students’ education as part of classes focused on health and wellbeing.