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BACK TO SCHOOL SOS | ADDICTION IN THE CLASSROOM

Parents place their faith in the education system for not only learning but also for nurturing and development of their children. The role of teachers in shaping America’s future cannot be overestimated. Teachers are under increasing stress and are not immune from turning to alcohol or drugs in order to cope with stressors or self-medicate. […]

Parents place their faith in the education system for not only learning but also for nurturing and development of their children. The role of teachers in shaping America’s future cannot be overestimated. Teachers are under increasing stress and are not immune from turning to alcohol or drugs in order to cope with stressors or self-medicate. However, the stigma associated with addiction conflicts with their societal role and they access treatment much later in the addiction cycle, which should change!

Teachers in America are given responsibilities without the authority to make decisions, overwhelming paperwork, and shifting teaching standards, leaving teachers feeling overworked, underpaid and burnt out. As per a 2017 survey 58% of teachers said their mental state was not good for 7 or more of the past 30 days. A 1990 study by the Journal of Drug Education discovered higher rates of abuse of alcohol, amphetamines, and tranquilizers as compared to the national average (10%).

For the sake of our kids’ future, it is important they get back on track when they have slipped into addiction while using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism. Researchshowed that students of stressed or ‘burnt out’ teachers had elevated levels of cortisol, which has been associated with learning difficulties as well as mental health problems.

However, treating teachers has its challenges. Teachers battle to give up control and accept the role of a patient. Treatment providers need to be sensitive to this issue and work to earn their trust. Teachers in treatment also usually have guilt associated with ‘abandoning their students,’ so the need for them to take care of themselves so they can take care of others needs to be highlighted.

To help avoid things escalating, and to manage stress in a healthy way, the following can be useful tools:

  • Meditation: Deep breathing has been known to almost instantly slow the heart rate and lower levels of stress and anxiety within the body, but it doesn’t have to be a reactionary practice. Try setting aside some time each morning or evening when you return home to meditate, so there is a clear divide between work and home life.
  • Exercise: The link between positivity and exercise has long been touted, so why not double up and do some physical fitness with a friend. Swapping an unhealthy habit like meeting for drinks with one that is good for you like going for a run, playing tennis or taking a hike, will give you the benefits of socializing, and the endorphin boost from working out.
  • Journal: Writing down how you feel can help you to really identify any possibly triggers and patterns of behavior before they escalate. From there, you can determine how to avoid or head them off at the pass so that they do not become larger than life.

And most importantly, if you or a teacher you know needs help, talk to a professional. We need to erase the stigma – just because somebody is a caregiver, does not mean that they do not need care themselves.

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