Zero Tolerance Policies Encourage Teen Drug Use

    Teen Drug UseNew research published in the American Journal of Public Health compared high school drug policies in Washington State to those in Victoria, Australia. While high schools across America take a firm zero-tolerance approach to teen drug use, Australia opts for less extreme approaches. Teen drug users who were caught in Washington schools were twice as likely to have police involved and 50 percent more likely to be expelled. Australian teen drug users received less severe punishment, such as being referred to a counselor.

    The research concluded that zero-tolerance drug policies were associated with:

    • 1.6 times increase in likelihood to use marijuana the following year
    • 60 percent increase in drug use during school
    • Disengagement from school
    • Delinquency and anti-social behavior
    • Increased use of cigarettes and alcohol

    Teenagers are notorious for rebelling against authority. Even if they have no personal desire to experiment with drugs, the idea that it is forbidden appeals to their desire for freedom and autonomy.

    So what can be done to decrease teen drug use?

    In order to protect our youth, drug and alcohol use must be prohibited on school campuses. However, requiring teens to not attend school through suspension or expulsion does not actually teach the students anything.

    “Drug education motivated by fear and lacking in credibility weakens young people’s confidence in law enforcement, parents, teachers and other adults.” – Marsha Rosenbaum, PhD, director emerita of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance

    Teen drug users need to be provided with education, intervention and counseling

    Trails Carolina encourages teens toward reform through:

    • Active participation in rules and regulations
    • Education on harmful effects of drugs, emotionally and physically
    • Increasing self-confidence and autonomy
    • Building positive relationships with family and peers
    • Effective coping mechanisms for stress and expressing independence

    By using supportive personal, group and family therapy, integrated with wilderness activities, troubled teens transform their attitudes and behaviors. They begin to take responsibility for their decisions and understand how their decisions effect themselves and others.

    To learn more about handling teen drug use, call us today at 800-975-7303.


    Graham Shannonhouse

    All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse

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