The Science of Addiction: K-12 Integrated Prevention Curriculum
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According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health’s latest report, an estimated 22.6 million Americans age 12 or older had used illicit drugs in the last month. Teaching students the science-based effects of drugs and alcohol on the body provides a hands-on, interactive and engaging way to show young people the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse.
By incorporating drug education into the science curriculum, students learn about the science behind drugs and alcohol—from the chemical breakdowns of certain drugs to how those chemicals interfere with how the brain transmits information—and can use that information to make better, educated decisions.
Following is a collection of lessons, broken down by grade level, to teach young people the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol on the body.
It’s never too early to begin learning how drugs and alcohol affect the human body. Students in grades K-4 can begin to learn the basics of how the chemicals in drugs interfere with how the body functions.
Alcohol and the Brain – A “Neuroscience Lesson for Kids,” this lesson explores how alcohol effects the brain. It explores the path alcohol takes in the body, how it affects the nervous system, and more.
Brain Buzz: Effect of Caffeine, Nicotine, Alcohol, and Drugs on Learning – As part of this three-week unit, students learn how drugs damage the brain’s synapses leading to learning and memory damage
The Effects of THC on the Brain – Using an illustration of the brain, students mark the different areas of the brain and how they function. They then answer questions regarding how THC disrupts the function of these systems.
Alcohol + Drugs = Magnified Effects – Through this helpful worksheet, students learn how combining alcohol with other drugs can magnify their harmful effects on the body.
Drugs Can Be Good Or Bad – Using this worksheet, students learn how to identify drugs that can help the body and drugs that harm the body.
Adolescents and tweens receive strong anti-drug messages inside and outside the classroom. For these age groups, drug and alcohol-related science lessons and activities can help enhance what they’re learning from other sources and engage them in a way that solidifies their knowledge of the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.
Pharmaceutical Party PowerPoint and Activity – Through a PowerPoint presentation and complementary materials, students learn the dangers of narcotics by learning about drug interactions and body chemistry interactions.
How Drugs Affect Neurotransmitters – In a lesson on the relationship between pleasure and drugs, students learn how alcohol and other drugs, including
heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy, affect the body’s neurotransmitters.
Brain Power! – From the National Institute on Drug Abuse, this six-module curriculum takes students through an exploration of the brain, the nervous system, and the effects of drugs on the nervous system and the body.
Mouse Party – From the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center, Mouse Party is an interactive game teaching student’s about drugs’ molecular mechanisms and how the drugs disrupt synapse to make users feel high.
What Do Bread and Beer Have in Common? – In this lesson, students learn how yeasts can be helpful to the human body. Then, students compare and contrast cellular respiration in plant and animal cells to learn the effects of alcohol on the body.
Investigating the Dehydrating Effects of Alcohol – Using this worksheet, students experiment with ethanol and potato cells to study the dehydrating effects of alcohol on living cells.
Drugged Out Daphnia – In this activity, students work with a microscope to test the effects of nicotine, alcohol, sleeping pills and other drugs on fresh water Daphnia.
By high school, many young people have already had to make decisions about drug and alcohol use in their own lives. For these age groups, study of the chemical effects of drugs and alcohol can be more intensive and hands-on.
Inquiry Based Drug Analysis for the High School Classroom –In this lesson, students learn forensic chemistry by testing chemicals and some over-the-counter medications, which are used to simulate illicit drugs. Students learn chromatography and perform inquiry labs to identify drug samples.
Toxicology Using Chromatography – In this lesson from a larger course on forensics, students analyze simulated body fluids to determine what toxic substance caused the “victim’s” death.
Chemical Changes of Substances – Recommended as part of a cross-curricular teaching idea, in this lesson, students learn how substances change chemically once administered to the body. For example, during metabolization, heroin changes to morphine.
Drug Movie – As part of this interdisciplinary unit for 10th graders, students study the chemistry of drugs, learning about chemical bonding. The unit culminates in students creating a digital video on a drug of their choice.
Effects of Drugs on the Frog Heart – In this hands-on experiment, students work with a frog heart to test how various drugs affect it.
The Effects of Alcohol and other Teratogens: A Model Using Zebrafish – In this open-ended lab, students tests the effects of various drugs on a Zebrafish embryo and extrapolate how those drugs would effect the human body.
Intoxication: In the Arms of Morpheus – In this lesson, students learn how psycho-active plants like marijuana and opium affect the brain. Students study the science of mind-altering plants, learn the molecular structures of drugs derived from these plants, and learn their physiological effects on humans.