School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse

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Here’s some information that was created and shared with me to help increase our awareness of substance use among our students. It got me thinking, as school counselors, are we doing enough? What do you think?


School Counselor’s Role with Students At-Risk for Substance Abuse — Infographic

In 2013, a study showed that 7,800 individuals tried drugs for the first time. An additional 12,500 reported drinking alcohol for the first time. One of the most troubling findings of this study was that well over half of these new users were younger than 18.

School counselors spend most of their time directly helping and communicating with their students, through issues both academic and personal. With drug usage so prevalent among youth, substance abuse is an inevitable issue school counselors will face throughout their careers.

Warning signs like academic decline, absenteeism, changing peer groups, and changes in attentiveness and grooming habits are all potential indicators that drug usage is beginning to impact a student’s life.  School counselors are invaluable when identifying and intervening substance abuse among individual students, but direct counsel is only one of many ways counselors can help in preventing substance abuse.

Students today are more likely to self-report drug usage than a decade ago, but they’re less likely to fully understand the risks associated with drug use. As illustrated in the infographic below, students are less likely to understand the risks associated with smoking marijuana, using heroin, or using cocaine than students surveyed over a decade ago.

Revealingly, these students are also less likely to report having been exposed to drug prevention messaging in their schools. Although these statistics reflect a downward trend, they illustrate that school counselors and educators alike have a great opportunity in reducing substance abuse by reinforcing their school’s drug-prevention policies and promoting drug-prevention messaging.

For instance, in one school district located in Escabana, Michigan, a community was able to reduce the rate of alcohol abuse over a span of seven years from 17% to just 7% by incorporating substance abuse prevention policies into their curriculum, conducting student messaging campaigns, and involving parents and youth agencies.

School counselors are fundamental in orchestrating the community involvement and policy changes needed to educate students and positively impact the rate of substance abuse in their schools. In the infographic below, produced for Bradley University’s Online Counseling Program, you can learn more about substance abuse statistics among K-12 students and how school counselors are capable of making a difference.

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