Teacher in front of class
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Kacie’s Cause recognizes the critical role that our teachers play in educating our children about the dangers of illicit drug use. Whether you are a high school Health teacher or an elementary school teacher your students are often impacted by drug use in our society. With that in mind we present the following recommendations for teachers as we all work together to battle the impact of substance use disorder in our communities

Keep informed about current trends in illicit drug use

The landscape of illicit drug use is constantly changing as drug dealers and users adapt to legal, economic, and recreational trends. The sad news is that illicit drug use in our country is now more deadly than ever. No drug has contributed to this steep rise in overdose deaths than fentanyl. Fentanyl is involved in more American youth drug deaths than heroin, heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and prescription drugs combined. Many of our citizens are not familiar with fentanyl and why it is so deadly. We encourage you to review this primer presented on National Fentanyl Awareness Day. You may want to consider downloading the toolkit provided in this resource and sharing it with your colleagues.

You will be pleased to know that overall drug use by teens has decreased in recent years. Although overall use has decreased overdose deaths involving teens has increased dramatically. This can be attributed to the inclusion of fentanyl in recreational drugs, often without the user’s knowledge. The lacing of fake prescription pills, like counterfeit Xanax, Percocet, and Oxycontin, can be especially lethal. It is important that teens are made aware of this trend.

Some additional trends and influences on teen drug use include the following:

  1. Social media can play a large role modeling drug use and allowing users to network with dealers.
  2. In addition to counterfeit pills, fentanyl has been found in other recreational drugs like cocaine and marijuana.
  3. A new drug called Paint has been found on the West coast of the United States. This is a highly addictive psychedelic pill that sells for as little as $5. It has been found in clear pill form with a reddish-brown dust.
  4. Xylazine, often referred to as Tranq and other street names, is an animal tranquilizer that is often mixed with heroin and fentanyl. This substance has been linked to a surge in overdose deaths in the Philadelphia area. Because it is not an opioid it does not respond to the administration of Naloxone when an overdose occurs.
  5. Dabbing, or using a vaping device to ingest marijuana concentrates, is increasing.
  6. Cases of poisoning caused by the ingestion of the herbal substance Kratom have increased dramatically.
Teacher with skeleton
Photo by Tima Morishnichenko

Become familiar with the student assistance team at your school

All public schools in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are required to operate a student assistance team. The Pennsylvania Student Assistance Program (SAP) is a systematic team process used to mobilize school resources to remove barriers to learning. SAP is designed to assist in identifying issues including alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, and mental health issues which pose a barrier to a student’s success. If you are concerned that one or more of your students are experiencing difficulties in one of these areas consider making a referral to the student assistance team. In most schools, student assistance teams include teachers that undergo training in the student assistance process. Consider taking part in this free training. The training is beneficial for teachers who do or do not move forward with becoming a member of the student assistance team. To learn more about the Student Assistance Program in Pennsylvania visit What is the Student Assistance Program. Contact your school’s student assistance team coordinator or your school Principal if you would like to request to take part in student assistance training.

Become familiar with the signs that a student might be experiencing problems related to substance abuse

Signs that a student may be experiencing problems related to substance use may include but not be limited to the following:

  • a change in peer group
  • carelessness with grooming
  • decline in academic performance
  • missing classes or skipping school
  • loss of interest in favorite activities
  • discipline problems in school or with the law
  • changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • deteriorating relationships with family members and friends
  • changes in eye appearance- dilated, pinning, or bloodshot
  • frequent cold-like symptoms- coughing, runny nose
  • smelling of smoke or marijuana

Become familiar with other resources in your school and your community

The counseling staff at your school or the school psychologist can help you to become familiar with resources related to substance use disorder that are available in your school. You may find What Educators Can Do to Help Prevent Underage Drinking and Other Drug Use provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to be helpful. Compass Mark, an organization dedicated to preventing addiction through education, skill building, and community organization, offers a free lending library of resources available here.

SADD logo

Consider forming a SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) club at your school

SADD is a nationally recognized organization organized around local chapters that are designed to promote healthy decision making in young people. At some schools serving as the sponsor of a SADD “club” is a paid extra-curricular position. The SADD organization provides a wealth of materials and suggested activities for use by members. If your school does not have a SADD chapter consider sponsoring one at your school. There are students in every school that are interested in promoting a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. To learn more about SADD, visit sadd.org.