Focus on Facts not Fear for Drug Education
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While it has always been important for adolescents to have drug education, with the increasing number of states and countries legalizing cannabis use, drug education is particularly topical.
Thankfully, as recently discussed by National Public Radio (NPR), drug education has significantly evolved from its "Just Say No" days. Indeed, many find it comical to think about the days of "Reefer Madness," which is a testament to how commonly many myths about cannabis use are dismissed. However, even now, there are many misconceptions about substance use in general and cannabis use specifically.
Many of us can remember our own drug education classes. I personally went through the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program at school, an intervention that was later largely discredited by research. Overall, research is clear that scare tactics (such as the "Scared Straight" programs, and DARE to a certain extent) are not effective. Thankfully, as NPR reports, drug education in schools today are taking an evidenced-based approach that focuses on facts, as opposed to fear, to help prevent substance use problems.
One curriculum that NPR followed, called Being Adept, helps students look at substance use data, discuss risks, and identify personal goals and values. This is music to my ears, as it is very similar to how I conduct substance use treatment with juvenile offenders. It is very heartening to hear that these strategies, supported by research, are being implemented in schools. This type of intervention empowers individuals to make their own choices based on facts and personal considerations.
Many of us may be justifiably nervous about an intervention encouraging teenagers, who are not traditionally known for always making great decisions, to make their own decisions about substance use. However, we also know that telling a teenager not to do something is often a surefire way to get the teenager to engage in the very 'prohibited' behavior. We might as well provide teens with knowledge and support as they navigate substance use in the modern era.
While some adolescents may be learning this evidence-based type of drug education at school, there are likely many adolescents who are still being taught drug education based on ineffective practices. In addition, it is unclear what messages about substance use parents are communicating to their children; given how important parents are in shaping adolescent behavior, it is critically important that parents are also communicating appropriate substance use messages.
There is undoubtedly much more work to do in the area of drug education. Hopefully as more states and countries legalize cannabis, there will be a corresponding increase in accurate and helpful drug education. For more information on cannabis use specifically, please read the Clinically Relevant Insights Blog (CRIB) post that examines cannabis's impact on the body, found right here!
The Clinically Relevant Insights Blog, part of ShawnWilsonPhD.com, shares news and research regarding psychology and wellness.