Suspension and Other Punishments Won’t Deter Kids from Using Drugs. Here’s What Will. 

In The Philadelphia Inquirer, Sean Fogler published this opinion piece on the addiction risks facing children, what works — and what doesn’t in addressing and preventing addiction — and his own perspective as a parent in recovery:

As someone who has struggled with addiction, I know firsthand the dangers our children face. As a parent of a 9- and 15-year-old, these fears keep me up at night. . . . 

As a child, I experienced trauma, then later became dependent on cocaine — an experience that showed me just how linked addiction is to mental health.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, one in six youth (7.7 million people) in the U.S. had a diagnosable mental health condition, and more than 10% of youth ages 12 to 17 (and 25% of young adults aged 18 to 25) had a substance use disorder. Between 2019 and 2021, the child and adolescent death rate rose by almost 20%, the fastest increase in 50 years, driven in part by accidental overdoses.

And we adults have responded inadequately. . . . 

Disciplinary measures like suspensions don’t just fail to do any good, they are actually associated with harm, such as worse academic performance and more involvement in antisocial activities. They also increase drug use and the risk of overdose.

Researchers who examined 10 years of surveys and school records for millions of kids in California found that a greater number of suspensions and expulsions in a given school year were linked to higher rates of depressed feelings and substance use by students the following year. These disciplinary measures — which are disproportionately applied to youth of color — also increase the odds that a given adolescent will become involved in the court system and enter the school-to-prison pipeline.”

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