DISCUSSION: After the small group sharing activity, facilitate a class discussion
using the following questions and list the students' ideas on the board.
What were some of the opinions you shared in your small groups:
What the government can do about stopping the use of illegal drugs?
What can communities do to prevent young people from using illicit drugs?
What can parents do to protect their children from using drugs?
What can young people do to protect themselves and their friends from drugs?
What did you say you were willing to do to?
Which question was the hardest to answer? Why?
Were you surprised by the opinions of your peers on any of the questions?
What do you think we can do as a school to stop drug use by students?
What is the first step?
EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL ON THE DEVELOPING BRAIN
The latest studies on the brain reveal that it does not finish developing until a person
is around twenty years old. The brain of people under 21 years of age is very different
from people over 21 years of age... children and adolescents are not just "little adults."
Think of the brain as a computer. It comes into the world with the basic operating systems,
central nervous system, circulatory system, respiratory system, reflexes, etc. However, it
does not have all its software - the programs for vision, speech, emotions, memory, abstract
thinking, problem solving and attention and concentration. The brain needs input from the
five senses to build these capacities. The brain not only grows bigger - from one pound at
birth to three pounds at adulthood - but it continues to "program" itself for 20 years,
completing the development process started before birth. During this 20-year period, the
brain is creating a complete human being, who is ready to function independently. The brain
is on a schedule, with each stage of development allotted a specific period of time for
completion. In other words, if anything prevents the brain from accomplishing a development
task on its schedule, it has to skip that task. Therefore, any substance that interferes
with how the brain operates during this 20-year period of development, such as a psychoactive
(mind/mood-altering) drug, can change the course of a person's physical, mental, emotional and
Some psychoactive drugs are prescribed to treat malfunctions in the brain such as seizures
and degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. When prescribed, these drugs
can be life saving. However, "self-prescription" of psychoactive drugs, such as use of
alcohol, cocaine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, marijuana, hallucinogens, inhalants,
nicotine, caffeine, opiates, sedatives, and steroids, can be harmful or deadly.
Psychoactive drugs change how the brain cells communicate with each other by interfering
with neurotransmitters - the messengers that go between brain cells translating the messages
to ensure accurate and timely communication between cells. Psychoactive drugs act like
computer viruses; they change, delete or scramble the code that our computer - the brain -
uses to operate. They deactivate and activate the brain centers that control speech,
hearing, vision, fine movements, gross movements, learning, anger, fear, pain, pleasure,
hunger, etc.. For any brain, non-prescribed psychoactive drugs can change the way people
think, feel and behave - they are altered. For a brain that is on a development schedule,
turning off brain centers - even for a short while - can be devastating. Adult brains,
which can still be harmed by use of psychoactive drugs, do not sustain the same level of
damage because their brains have completed development. The use of non-prescription
psychoactive drugs by children and adolescents can permanently alter their mental and social
development - which is not evident until well after their use. Adults can usually recover
depending on the amount of damage they sustained. However, missed developmental tasks in
children and youth can be devastating and hidden until they need what didn't get developed.
That is why so much effort is focused on preventing use of psychoactive drugs by children.
Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Scott Swartzwelder, Ph.D., and Wilkie Wilson, Ph.D., Buzzed: The Straight Facts
Abut the Most Used and Abused Drugs (from Alcohol to Ecstasy), Duke University Medical Center, 1998.