Lesson: Drugs + Your Life

First published 2012. To view the latest Heads Up content, click here.

Use the lesson and student work sheet below to reinforce comprehension of key facts and concepts in the student article “Drugs + Your Life.”

Dear Teacher:

The first two articles of this year’s Heads Up series highlighted the damaging health effects of drugs on a teen’s brain and body. This third article, “Drugs + Your Life,” focuses on other real-life consequences of teen drug and alcohol use such as academic problems, violence, accidental death, and blackouts. In addition, the lesson below includes further thought-provoking statistics for you to guide students in grade/age-appropriate discussions about possible consequences of binge drinking. The corresponding reproducible work sheet helps students develop the skills to interpret and understand statistical data as well as apply information in decision making.

By sharing this article and working through these exercises with your students, you will provide them with critical information about the many risks teens face with drugs, as well as valuable tools to help them make informed and healthy decisions.

In This Installment:

  • Student article: Presents teens with statistics that illustrate other real risks of substance abuse in addition to health effects.
  • Student work sheet: Helps to explain statistics in a relatable way, using real-life examples and mathematical context.

Alignment With National Standards

  • Science (NSES): Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and Community Health
  • Math (NCTM): Evaluate inferences and predictions based on data; probability

Lesson Plan
Before-Reading Questions:

  • In addition to damaging a teen’s health, how else can drugs and alcohol affect his or her chances for a successful and happy life? 
  • What do you know about statistics? What makes statistical data reliable?
  • What factors influence your choices and actions when making decisions?

After-Reading Questions (factual responses in italics):

  • What are statistics, and what can we learn from them? (Statistics can be used to indicate the probability, or likelihood, of something happening to a certain group of people.)
  • How can a person’s age and behavior be used to determine the probability of risk? (Scientists use a mathematical formula that examines the number of times a certain result occurs within a sample of similar people or behaviors. In drug studies, there are always at least two experimental [or study] groups—one that uses the drug and one that does NOT. By comparing how often a certain result occurs in each group, calculations can be made to determine if using a drug affects outcomes, i.e., has risk.)
  • How can statistics help you make smart decisions? (Statistics can help you understand the likelihood of something happening, which can aid you in making smart and informed decisions.)

Additional Discussion: Binge Drinking1

Below are several teen statistics relevant to binge drinking that might be sensitive to present in some classrooms, but are provided here for teachers to incorporate into student discussions as they deem appropriate.

• Suicide: Among high school teens, those who binge on alcohol are three times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not drink.

• Sexual Violence: Teens who binge drink are about three times more likely to be forced to have sex than teens who do not drink.

• Unwanted Pregnancy: Compared with high school teens who do not drink, teen binge drinkers are about four times more likely to become pregnant or to get someone pregnant.


Challenge students to research infograms and teen drug statistics. Then have them convey information they think is important in a graph, chart, or other visual illustration that displays the data in an accurate and effective way. Have students present their infograms in class.

Student Work Sheet
Have each student use the information on the work sheet, as well as in the article, to answer the work sheet questions.

View the Student Work Sheet online (HTML).
Download and print the Student Work Sheet (PDF).

Work Sheet Answer Key:

1. “Group Fight”: 36.4 / 16.5 = 2.2
“Sold Drugs”: 29.8 / 2.8 = 10.6
“Stole More Than $50”: 26.1 / 4.1 = 6.4
“Attacked Someone”: 24.4 / 7.3 = 3.3
“Carried a Handgun”: 8.6 / 3.1 = 2.8

2. Answers might include: Teens who do drugs may become addicted and feel compelled to find money to buy more drugs, so they might turn to stealing or selling drugs to get the next high.

3. Answers might include: Statistical probability shows the likelihood of something happening, which can help a person determine risk.

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