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Schools & Child Care

Addressing drugs and alcohol in schools

Addressing Drugs and Alcohol in Schools

Students spend a large part of their day at school. Education paired with skill building can have a role in delaying onset of first use by providing students with credible information about drugs and alcohol and building skills to manage the many influences placed on young people. Research demonstrates delayed onset of drug and alcohol use is vital to healthy brain development and good mental health. :

We can help you to use the sample activities below related to drugs and alcohol in your school action plan and/or engage students, staff, families and community partners to come up with ideas of your own.

Click the links below for suggested lesson plans, curriculum supports, health unit programs and additional resources:

Choose resources to support instruction (e.g., books, websites, videos, etc.) that reinforce healthy decision-making concepts related to substance use. 

  • Raise awareness with staff, students, and families about policies and/or codes of conduct related to substance use.
  • Plan and participate in activities to raise awareness about substance use and addictions, such as: National Addictions Awareness Week (3rd week of November), or World No Tobacco Day (May 31).
  • Host a variety of school spirit and character education activities to promote school connectedness.
  • Take an asset-building approach to promote thriving behaviours and reduce risk-taking behaviours (such as substance use) among students, following the Developmental Assets framework.
  • Complete the online free 30 hour training The Brain Certification from Alberta Family Wellness Initiative for a fulsome understanding of the developing brain and how to promote resilience and mental wellbeing in children and youth.
  • Establish a student-led committee to plan and organize school-wide initiatives.
  • Help students build skills to recognize alcohol/substance-related influences and develop healthy decision-making and refusal skills (e.g. role play various scenarios).
  • Create opportunities for developing school connectedness by implementing programs similar to the ‘Come As You Are’ program based in Thunder Bay, ON.
  • Facilitate student learning about local community supports and services and involve students in planning creative approaches for sharing this information with the broader school community.
  • Start a student support group to raise awareness about the risks of impaired driving, such as Ontario Students Against Impaired Driving (OSAID) or Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD).
  • Promote positive mental health; create opportunities during the school day to support students and staff to develop resilience and cope with stress in healthy ways.
  • Encourage and organize activities that promote healthy living, including student running programs, intramurals, and clubs that appeal to a variety of interests.
  • Raise awareness about the risks of substance use and community supports for youth and families, through newsletter inserts, displays, bulletin boards, school website, etc.
  • Create a resource section in the library with information for students, staff, and parents.
  • Raise staff awareness and coordinate increased supervision of areas that may present a higher risk for substance use.

Engage parents, caregivers, and families: 

  • Offer a parent education night to teach strategies for supporting youth with healthy decision making.

Partner with your school community:

  • Organize events to raise awareness within your school community such as: a Mental Health Week walk or a smoke free movie night.
  • Host school assemblies for students, staff and families and invite guest speakers; ensure to follow current COVID-19 guidance for schools.
  • Enlist the support of your School Health nurse, and other community partners (such as police, community mental health agencies, etc.) in planning and implementing Healthy Schools initiatives.
  • iMinds - A Health Literacy Resource – For Grades 4-12. This free health education resource aims to help students maximize their drug literacy, by building knowledge and skills needed to survive and thrive in a world where drug use is common. It was designed to support BC Ministry of Education curricula but is adaptable and available for use in Canadian schools. (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research).
  • The Art of Motivation is a tool that teachers can use to communicate with students about challenging issues, to help students explore making positive changes to their behaviour, including their use of alcohol, drugs, and substance abuse. (Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia).
  • Drug and Alcohol Helpline
  • Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)
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