Substance Use and Abuse


Pine Tree Independent School District is committed to providing a safe and healthy learning environment for our students, faculty, and staff. We recognize that the abuse of alcohol and drugs will interfere with a student’s ability to reach his/her full potential. Without a safe and orderly learning environment, teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn.

Pine Tree ISD Substance Abuse Prevention Overview

Our substance abuse prevention efforts use the dissemination of information as well as both group and individual counseling in order to discourage and bring awareness to the harmful consequences of alcohol abuse and drug use. Our School Counselors offer general counseling and referrals to substance abuse treatment agencies in the community to our faculty, staff, and students with alcohol or other drug-related problems. In addition, our prevention efforts include:

  • Providing individual and group education, prevention, and awareness activities.
  • Providing school-wide student led prevention lessons in the classroom.
  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle for staff and students.
  • Addressing substance abuse prevention at the individual, school, and community level.
  • Enforcing district policies plus local, state, and federal laws to address the dangers of alcohol and drug use.
  • A focus on enhancing protective factors and reducing risk factors.
  • A focus on enhancing “School Connectedness.”


Risk vs Protective Factors


Efforts to improve child and adolescent health typically have featured interventions designed to address specific unhealthy behaviors such as tobacco, alcohol, and drug use. However, results from a growing number of studies suggests greater health impact might be achieved by also enhancing protective factors that help children and adolescents avoid multiple behaviors which might put them at high risk of adverse health and educational outcomes


Risk factors are individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviors which increase the likelihood that a negative outcome will occur. Examples include:

  • Isolated and few friends
  • Early academic failure
  • Early aggressive behaviors
  • Feeling unloved


Protective factors are individual or environmental characteristics, conditions, or behaviors which reduce the effects of stressful life events; increase an individual’s ability to avoid risks or hazards; and promote social and emotional competence to thrive in all aspects of life. Examples include:

  • Community and school involvement
  • Supervised by parents
  • Positive adult role models, coaches, and mentors
  • Involved in religious and/or cultural activities


Resource: Blum, R.W., McNeely, C.A. Rinhart. P.M., (2002). Improving the odds: the untapped power of schools to improve the health of teens. Center for Adolescent Health and Development, University of Minnesota, 200 Oak St. SE, Suite 260, Minneapolis, MN.


The Power of School Connectedness


As mentioned earlier, a major goal of the Pine Tree ISD is to create schools where everyone belongs. The motto of our counseling department is to help every students feel capable, cared for, and connected. School Connectedness is the belief by students that adults and peers in the school care about their learning as well as about them as individuals. Research has demonstrated a strong relationship between school connectedness and educational outcomes. Adolescents who feel connected to school:

  • Enjoy school more.
  • Have better attendance.
  • Have higher academic performance and graduation rates.
  • Have fewer behavioral problems.
  • Are more likely to achieve emotional health and well-being.
  • Have a commitment to do well in school.
  • And are less likely to:
    • Use drugs or alcohol.
    • Bully or be bullied.
    • Self-harm or have suicidal thoughts.
    • Exhibit disruptive or violent behavior.
    • Engage in adolescent sexual behavior.

As you can see, when we assist a student in feeling “connected” to school, we are increasing a student’s chance of academic success and decreasing the risk of drug abuse, suicidal thoughts, bullying, and other risky behaviors.


Statistics About Student Drug and Alcohol Abuse


In the United States

  • 51.8% of sixteen and seventeen year old persons reported consuming alcohol during their lifetime. 23.3% of these persons reported consuming alcohol in the last month.
  • 33.2% of sixteen and seventeen year old persons reported Tobacco use during their lifetime and 14.1% reported use in the last month.
  • 31.8% of sixteen and seventeen year old persons reported that they had used marijuana at some point in their lives.
  • 15.0% of sixteen and seventeen year old persons reported that they had used marijuana in the past month.
  • 87.5% of youth aged to 12 to 17 reported their parents would strongly disapprove of them trying marijuana.


Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2013 and 2014.


In Texas

  • Alcohol remains the most commonly used substance among Texas students (grades 7 – 12). In 2014, 50.5% of students reported that they had used alcohol at some point in their lives. Past-month alcohol use by students was reported to be 21.2%.
  • 22.4% of students (grades 7 – 12) reported lifetime use of tobacco and 8.4% reported past-month use.
  • Marijuana remains the most widely used illicit drug among Texas youth. 23.2% of students reported lifetime marijuana use. Past month use of marijuana was reported by 11.1% of students.

Source: SAMHSA, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2013 and 2014.


Warning Signs

Alcohol and drug users often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. If you’re worried that a family member might be abusing drugs, look for the following warning signs:


Psychological Warning Signs

  • Unexplained change in personality or attitude
  • Sudden mood swings, irritability or angry outbursts
  • Periods of unusual hyperactivity, agitation, or giddiness
  • Lack of motivation; appears lethargic or “spaced out”
  • Appears fearful, anxious, or paranoid with no reason


Behavioral signs of drug abuse

  • Drop in attendance and performance at school
  • Unexplained need for money; may borrow or steal to get it
  • Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
  • Sudden change in friends, favorite hangouts, and hobbies
  • Frequently getting into trouble (fights, accidents, illegal activities)


Physical warning signs

  • Bloodshot eyes, pupils larger or smaller than usual
  • Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Deterioration of physical appearance, personal grooming habits
  • Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing
  • Tremors, slurred speech, or impaired coordination


How Can I Help a Friend Who Might Have a Problem with Drugs or Alcohol?

Students are informed at the beginning of school, as well as periodically during the school year, how to make a report.

  • Encourage your friend to go speak to the guidance counselor or other trusted adult at school or home.
  • If your friend will not seek help, you could make a confidential report to a staff member on his or her behalf. Once the report has been made, a staff member (usually the counselor) will contact the student about your concern. Unless you want your name used, your name will be kept confidential.


What Can Parents Do?

A parent has a major impact on the child’s decision not to use drugs. Believe it or not, most students DO listen to their parents! Here are some ways a parent can help the child make healthy, drug-free choices:

  • Talk with, and listen to, your child. Talk often about the dangers of drug use, and start early. Even a child in the elementary grades is able to engage in conversations about staying healthy. Share your love by keeping your child safe.
  • Learn the facts about the harmful effects of drugs. Discuss their effects on the brain and body, and correct any wrong beliefs your child may have, such as “Everybody is doing it.” Discuss legal issues as well.
  • Provide guidance and clear rules about not using drugs.
  • Get involved in your child’s life, and encourage participation in family, school, and volunteer activities. Time together helps your child feel valued, safe, and connected.
  • Monitor your own substance use. A parent’s actions truly speak louder than words.
  • Know your child’s friends and their families. Remind your child that true friends support each other’s values.
  • Know your child’s location at all times.
  • Help your child learn different ways to resist negative peer pressure, such as saying, “No thanks, my parents would get really mad at me.”

Trust your “gut.” If you suspect drug or alcohol use, talk with your child about your concerns. Contact a substance abuse specialist or your child’s school counselor. The information will remain confidential.



Above the Influence

Foundation for a Drug-Free World

National Institute on Drug Abuse

Partnership for Drug-Free Kids

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration

Winning the Fight