Children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42% less likely to use drugs than those who don't, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations.

Societal Costs

To become aware of the societal costs of drug use.

One of the compelling reasons for being concerned about the scourge of drugs in our society is the cost in lives and money exacted by drug use. Dollars are spent on crime control, on drug user rehabilitation and treatment, on treatment of children born with addictions, on programs for teenage mothers, and on other needs that could be used to expand educational opportunities or to clean up the environment. Children in grades 4-6 can understand how money spent on one thing cannot be used for something else. Understanding that drugs affect everyone will help them understand why they should not use drugs.

Using the statistics found on this page indicating the costs of drug use, have the student add these figures together to determine a portion of the total amount of money involved in fighting illegal drugs. Then have the students list on the chalkboard ways in which this money could be spent to benefit more people in the society. Have students divide the number of possibilities into the pool of money to determine how much money could be available for each good cause.

An additional or alternative activity would be to create priorities for items on the list, assigning each a percentage of the money. Students could calculate the amount of money available using the percentage figures.

Chalkboard; facts on the cost of illegal drugs:
The following amounts of money were recommended by the White House in its National Drug Control Strategy for 1990:

Drug law enforcement: $ 32 million
Drug prevention education: $392 million
Additional federal prosecutors: $183 million
Enhancements to federal courts: $250 million
Drug treatment research: $685 million

Teacher Tips
• It is important to reinforce the idea that society has only a certain amount of money to spend solving problems. When that money is spent, it cannot be used in another way. Help students understand this concept by talking about their experience of having spent money on something of shoddy quality or short-lived value that prevented them from being able to buy something of greater value later on.

• This lesson may be adapted to target individual drugs such as chewing tobacco, cigarettes, or alcohol.

Learning to Live Drug-Free, A Curriculum Model for Prevention, U.S. Department of Education's Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program

2490 Coral Way, Miami, FL 33145 | Phone: 800-705-8997

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