The quick, short answer is yes, it’s very likely you’ll get in trouble for substance use while at school. Punishment from using can vary from getting detention all the way to being arrested.
More important than whether you will get into trouble, is asking yourself WHY you want to use during school? Is it peer pressure, a sense of feeling overwhelmed with projects and workload? What is triggering you so that you feel compelled to use? It may even be a sign of the beginning of an addiction if you start to feel the urge to use it at places or in situations you didn’t before.
Why do you want to use at school?
Do you feel stressed?
It’s understandable that the urge to use is very strong and may sometimes win when you’re faced with difficult, stressful, or troubling situations. Try focusing on why you want to use while at school. Try thinking about what you are feeling when you have the urge to use, and then take it a step back. Ask yourself: What caused those feelings or emotions to occur?
Do you want to fit in with others?
School is where most friendships first start to develop, and everyone wants to fit in and find a place where they belong. It is understandable that if you see others drinking or taking a substance, you’ll be inclined to do so as well to create relationships. You may be lonely, or even trying to escape a situation or a problem, be it at home or even at school.
The beginning of addiction
If you’re making decisions that prioritize using over school or work, it’s a good time to look at whether you are developing addictive behaviors with the substance you’re using. An addiction happens when we need to use more to feel the same high and when we can’t cut back when we want to. Over time, this causes us to prioritize our use over life responsibilities.
Finding other ways to cope
Having coping skills while at school when these situations or feelings occur may make the situation a bit easier to handle. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Learn the effects of alcohol and drugs. The more you know of how something can affect your mind or your body, the more likely you are to stay away from it. If your mind is still developing and changing, it can be impacted by substance use.
- Call a hotline. The SAMHSA National Helpline is confidential and available 24/7 for free help from public health agencies. The helpline is available in English and in Spanish.
- Create a coping skills toolbox. This can be either something tangible or a list. When you are beginning to feel triggered, pull something out of your coping skills toolbox to ground yourself. Create a small box or use a pouch to hold fidget toys, gum, pen and paper, and other items that will assist in regulating your emotions. If you don’t have anything tangible, create a list of activities you like to do or that helps calm yourself down. Examples include playing video games, watching a movie, going for a walk, taking a shower, etc.
- Create goals or a plan that doesn’t involve substance use. Find something you like to do and create a goal to work towards. For example, if you enjoy writing you can set a goal to write 2,000 words a day for a month or set a goal to write a book.
- Reach out for support or attend a support group – It is hard and scary to cut back or stop using. You are not alone in worrying or thinking there is no one around to help, but there are different avenues to get help. Talk to someone you trust or try to find a counselor or someone who has been in the same situation before like a peer supporter. Or try to join a recovery group like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) group.
Everyone moves at their own speed and on their own path. It is okay if coping skills don’t work right away. These things take time and hard work, but overall, an improvement in your physical and mental health will be worth it in the end.