K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education


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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • learn the dangers of substance abuse.
  • acquire information to help them make healthy choices.
  • assess peer pressure.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

45 minutes


Technology resources

Overhead projector


Begin the lesson with an oral quiz using questions taken from Growing Up Drug Free: A Parent’s Guide to Prevention (I use six questions from the Test Your Knowledge of Drugs section). This gets the students involved and participating in the lesson.

  1. What is the most commonly used drug in the United States? a) heroin b) cocaine c) alcohol d) marijuana. (c)
  2. Name the three drugs most commonly used by children. (Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana).
  3. Which drug is associated with the most teenage deaths? (Alcohol). After they get the answer, ask them why that would be. Students will have many answers, but eventually will say that after drinking, teenagers often do something stupid and dangerous and frequently get into cars. We also discuss alcohol poisoning.
  4. People who have not used alcohol and other drugs before their 20th birthday a) have no risk of becoming chemically dependent b)are less likely to develop a drinking problem or use illicit drugs c) have an increased risk of becoming chemically dependent. (b) Ask the students to discuss why they think that may be.
  5. Anabolic steroids are dangerous because they may result in (students will often need a definition of steroids before you continue with this question) a) development of female characteristics in males b) development of male characteristics in females c) stunted growth d) damage to the liver and cardiovascular system e) overaggressive behavior f)all of the above (f)
  6. How is marijuana harmful? a) it hinders the user’s short-term memory b) students may find it hard to study and learn while under the influence of marijuana c) it affects timing and coordination d)all of the above (d)

Students usually have some questions and discussion regarding the quiz.


  1. Following the pre-activities, put the list of definitions on the overhead, covering all but the definition for drug (a chemical substance that affects the central nervous system, causing changes in behavior and often addiction.)
  2. Ask for a definition of addiction from the students and discuss. The definition that I sometimes use is: the compulsive, uncontrolled use of habit-forming drugs, but students can usually come up with good definitions themselves. Emphasize that many prescriptions that we get from the doctor also fall into this category and the need to follow directions when using those medications.
  3. The second definition that we discuss is that for alcohol (a colorless, volatile, flammable liquid formed by fermentation and contained in wine, beer, whiskey and other liquors. Also used as an antifreeze, as a fuel and as a raw material for many organic chemicals). Discuss.
  4. Third definition: Intoxicate (to excite or stupefy by alcoholic drinks or drugs to the point where physical and mental control is markedly diminished). Discuss.
  5. Fourth definition: Nicotine (a very poisonous alkaloid that constitutes the chief active principal of tobacco, that darkens on exposure, that causes a burning sensation in the mouth and that is used as an insecticide. It is also the addictive principal of tobacco). Discuss. (If you have any pictures of the effects of tobacco use on the body, this is a good time to introduce them.)
  6. On the overhead, present the top five reasons children give for using alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs (according to Partnership for a Drug-Free America):
    • 1. to feel grown up
    • 2. to fit in and belong
    • 3. to relax and feel good
    • 4. to take risks and rebel
    • 5. to satisfy curiosity.

    Ask the students which reasons they think would be the most likely to influence drug use and discuss why. Also discuss other ways that we might satisfy those needs and ways to guard ourselves against the influence of peer pressure.


This lesson usually elicits a great deal of discussion among students. I believe that the success of the lesson depends not only on the information that students learn about drugs, but also the feedback that they receive from one-another regarding the wisdom of experimenting with substances that can harm them.

  • North Carolina Essential Standards
    • Healthful Living (2010)
      • Grade 6

        • 6.ATOD.1 Analyze the factors that influence the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. 6.ATOD.1.1 Analyze the marketing and advertising of alcohol and tobacco companies in terms of the strategies they use to influence youth experimentation with their products....
        • 6.ATOD.2 Understand the health risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. 6.ATOD.2.1 Explain the immediate social and physical consequences of tobacco use, including spit tobacco. 6.ATOD.2.2 Summarize the short-term and long-term effects of...
      • Grade 7

        • 7.ATOD.1 Understand the health risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. 7.ATOD.1.1 Explain the common sequence of substance abuse that leads to serious health risks. 7.ATOD.1.2 Explain health risks resulting from injection drug use. 7.ATOD.1.3...
      • Grade 8

        • 8.ATOD.2 Understand the health risks associated with alcohol, tobacco, and other drug use. 8.ATOD.2.1 Explain the impact of alcohol and other drug use on vehicle crashes, injuries, violence, and risky sexual behavior. 8.ATOD.2.2 Evaluate the magnitude and...

North Carolina curriculum alignment

Guidance (2001)

Grade 6–8

  • Goal 9: Understand safety and survival skills.
    • Objective 9.07: Apply effective problem-solving and decision-making skills to make safe and healthy choices.
    • Objective 9.08: Forecast about the emotional and physical dangers of substance use and abuse.