Illegal Drugs Background Information for Teachers and Parents

Grade Levels: K-3

It is likely that many children have heard or read about drugs in the news or at school. Some may have seen drugs in their communities. It is important for children to understand the risks and dangers of substance abuse and the importance of remaining healthy and drug-free. This movie will explore illegal drugs and discuss ways to avoid them. Before beginning this topic, you may want to review the Medicine movie so children can better understand drugs and how they can be helpful or harmful.

Review with children that a drug is a substance that changes the way the body works. Drugs can be administered in different ways, through pills, syrup, drops, sprays, and injections. Explain that we take certain drugs when we are sick or hurt to make us feel better. Medicine is a drug that is considered helpful and safe. In most countries, medicines go through extensive research, clinical trials, and testing before the public can use them. Discuss different types of medicine children have used and why they were helpful. Explain that medicines are legal drugs and they are to be used as directed or recommended by a doctor.

Explain that some substances are only for adults. For example, in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. This means that it is illegal for people under that age to buy or use alcohol. Help children understand that alcohol can damage kids’ growing bodies. The law exists for a reason and should be followed. Review that when something is illegal, it is against the law. Some drugs are illegal for anyone to use—regardless of age—because they are dangerous and pose serious health risks.

Some children may have heard about the dangers of illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin, or methamphetamines. Explain that drugs change the way people feel and act by affecting their brains. Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines make people feel hyper, increasing the heart rate. After the effects wear off, people can feel sick and tired. Depressants, such as alcohol, have the opposite effect. They slow down the heart rate, leaving the person sleepy, tired, and even sad. Narcotics, such as heroin, dull the body’s senses, leaving the person tired and listless. In some cases, narcotic abuse can lead to comas and cardiac arrest. Hallucinogens, such as LSD, affect the brain so the user sees or believes things that are not real, feels confused, or has strange thoughts.

Some substances are legal, but used in illegal ways. Paints and glues are perfectly legal, but they can be illegally used as inhalants to achieve a high. This can lead the user to feel dizzy and nauseous. Steroids are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat diseases and conditions, but they can be illegally used in order to build muscle mass. The anabolic steroids used illegally to build muscles are very different fro the corticosteroids doctors prescribe for conditions like asthma. Steroid use can damage the entire body and affect moods.

Help children understand that people who use drugs might do things they wouldn’t normally do and engage in dangerous behavior. They may say things they don’t really mean and make poor decisions. In short, people on drugs don’t act like themselves. Explain to children that when we say substances are abused, we mean they are misused or used too much. Abusing illegal substances can damage the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Substance abuse can even lead to brain damage. Furthermore, drugs can be addictive, which means that a person’s body and mind need more and more just to feel O.K. Addiction can damage a person’s entire body and also cause problems in personal relationships. Discuss how children might feel if a loved one was addicted to an illegal substance.

If children see someone using drugs at school, they should tell a teacher or aide right away. Everyone at school wants to learn in a safe place. If children see people abusing, selling, or promoting drugs in their community, they should tell a trusted adult. Encourage children to avoid areas that are unsafe or places where illegal drug use might take place.

There are several reasons why someone might try illegal drugs. Some may just want to see what it’s like or fit in with a group of friends. Encourage children to remain healthy and drug-free and understand that abusing substances isn’t cool at all. Drugs can be extremely dangerous. Discuss what to do if children encounter drugs. Model different ways of “just saying no” and finding ways to stick by their beliefs, make good choices, and stay healthy.

Extension Activity:

Review with children that a drug is a substance that changes the way the body works. Drugs can be administered in different ways, through pills, syrup, drops, sprays, and injections. Explain that we take certain drugs when we are sick or hurt to make us feel better. Medicine is a drug that is considered helpful and safe. In most countries, medicines go through extensive research, clinical trials, and testing before the public can use them. Discuss different types of medicine children have used and why they were helpful. Explain that medicines are legal drugs and they are to be used as directed or recommended by a doctor.

Explain that some substances are only for adults. For example, in the United States, the legal drinking age is 21 years old. This means that it is illegal for people under that age to buy or use alcohol. Help children understand that alcohol can damage kids' growing bodies. The law exists for a reason and should be followed. Review that when something is illegal, it is against the law. Some drugs are illegal for anyone to use—regardless of age—because they are dangerous and pose serious health risks.

Some children may have heard about the dangers of illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, heroin, or methamphetamines. Explain that drugs change the way people feel and act by affecting their brains. Stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines make people feel hyper, increasing the heart rate. After the effects wear off, people can feel sick and tired. Depressants, such as alcohol, have the opposite effect. They slow down the heart rate, leaving the person sleepy, tired, and even sad. Narcotics, such as heroin, dull the body's senses, leaving the person tired and listless. In some cases, narcotic abuse can lead to comas and cardiac arrest. Hallucinogens, such as LSD, affect the brain so the user sees or believes things that are not real, feels confused, or has strange thoughts.

Some substances are legal, but used in illegal ways. Paints and glues are perfectly legal, but they can be illegally used as inhalants to achieve a high. This can lead the user to feel dizzy and nauseous. Steroids are sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat diseases and conditions, but they can be illegally used in order to build muscle mass. The anabolic steroids used illegally to build muscles are very different fro the corticosteroids doctors prescribe for conditions like asthma. Steroid use can damage the entire body and affect moods.

Help children understand that people who use drugs might do things they wouldn't normally do and engage in dangerous behavior. They may say things they don't really mean and make poor decisions. In short, people on drugs don't act like themselves. Explain to children that when we say substances are abused, we mean they are misused or used too much. Abusing illegal substances can damage the heart, lungs, and other vital organs. Substance abuse can even lead to brain damage. Furthermore, drugs can be addictive, which means that a person's body and mind need more and more just to feel O.K. Addiction can damage a person's entire body and also cause problems in personal relationships. Discuss how children might feel if a loved one was addicted to an illegal substance.

If children see someone using drugs at school, they should tell a teacher or aide right away. Everyone at school wants to learn in a safe place. If children see people abusing, selling, or promoting drugs in their community, they should tell a trusted adult. Encourage children to avoid areas that are unsafe or places where illegal drug use might take place.

There are several reasons why someone might try illegal drugs. Some may just want to see what it's like or fit in with a group of friends. Encourage children to remain healthy and drug-free and understand that abusing substances isn't cool at all. Drugs can be extremely dangerous. Discuss what to do if children encounter drugs. Model different ways of "just saying no" and finding ways to stick by their beliefs, make good choices, and stay healthy.