Growing up from a child to a fully-formed and functioning adult can be confusing, especially when getting a good drug education in school is nearly impossible. What should be a straightforward education about drugs and their effects has become a confusing maze of half-truths and contradictory lessons. Students learn about alcohol to the near-extreme and yet drugs like cannabis are left at, "it's bad, don't do it." Somehow teenagers are old enough to be taught how many drinks are safe but not how many joints? It simply doesn't make sense!
Drug education in school is far from perfect and it shows. While not all schools fall into the same faults, it's easy to find a trend of fear and abstinence-based drug education that lacks just that – education. By exploring past mistakes in drug education in schools we can fix the system and create a comprehensive drug education for everyone. After all, it isn't only children who are in need of a thorough education on drugs! Some people still aren’t sure about the difference between CBD and THC, so they can’t figure out if hemp CBD products or THC products are right for them. It's time to make some changes and hopefully create a program where a child can expect honesty and open dialogue in their drug education. They don't have to be taught to like weed, only understand it.
It's Time to Adapt Drug Education in School
Cannabis legalization is an ever-increasing trend, and yet drug education in school just doesn't seem to have caught up with the changing times. And that's understandable really, considering how quickly the laws are having to change and adapt to support legalization. Residents and state officials both have trouble keeping up with where current laws for cannabis dispensaries are at. If the government can't keep up with the rapidly changing future of cannabis, then schools certainly can't. But they should.
In the time of easy-to-access information and social media, it’s more important than ever to ensure children are well-educated and ready to face whatever real-world issues are out there. Not teaching truthfully and honestly about drugs in school is only detrimental! Informed and educated children will make much better decisions about drugs than those who know nothing. Sheltering a student's education is not helpful and only puts them at a disadvantage when they become adults in a world where cannabis is legal.
The Recent Past of Drug Education in School
If anyone has a hard time remembering specifics about their drug education in school, it's probably because there were no specifics to remember. For decades schools have managed to teach drug education without actually educating their students about drugs! Yes, alcohol is covered (over and over and over again) but it isn't the only important drug in the modern market. From cannabis to Xanax to 'shrooms, children just aren't getting enough information to make informed decisions! They're told taking mushrooms will make you sick and that you shouldn't do it, but not what to do if they experience a bad trip. That's like no longer teaching kids to stop, drop, and roll because Smokey the Bear doesn't approve of lighters. Whether or not adults like it, their children are probably going to be faced with a real-life encounter with drugs at some point or another. The only question is are they going to have a drug education that helps them navigate the situation safely or not?
Drug Education in the Classroom
Drug education in the classroom depends largely on age, geographical location, and the individual person in charge of teaching the class. As a whole, however, drug education follows the same approach: drugs are bad and you shouldn't do them. From elementary school, children are taught to "say no to drugs" but little else. In middle school, they teach a slightly more comprehensive version of drug education that basically boils down to the same idea: don't do drugs. High school is where drug education really takes place for most children, though the quality of that education can vary dramatically.
Right from the start, it's flawed since parents with particularly strong opinions can easily remove their child from the class. Math is not optional, so why is health and drug education? If we're being honest, most adults use drugs more often than trigonometry in day-to-day life. Drug education in school also often hyper focuses on alcohol and fails to adequately explain the specifics of other drugs. The difference between medical and recreational cannabis? No way! A scale of how dangerous different drugs are? Nope – far too nuanced for an eighteen-year-old to understand (apparently). To put it simply, drug education in school is usually taught in black and white and rarely with the appropriate amount of real-life grey.
Drug Education in D.A.R.E
D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) is probably the most (in)famous source of "drug education" in America. You might have memories of going through D.A.R.E presentations in elementary school and onwards, or maybe you saw them doing public outreach. If you have encountered D.A.R.E, you may remember the rather heavy-handed scare tactics they used on children in the past decades. Weed? Don't do it, it's bad. Acid? Dangerous and will cause vivid flashbacks. The world isn't in black and white and drug education shouldn't be either. D.A.R.E doesn't even begin to teach the nuance of drugs and their effects, an approach which is much more harmful than helpful. Fear isn't the same thing as respect and teaching children to fear drugs won't necessarily make them respect drugs. D.A.R.E drug education might not be quite as heavy-handed as it used to be, but that doesn't mean its stance has changed. Only time will tell if D.A.R.E will abandon its bias and start teaching nothing other than the truth.
Drug Education in Old-School Programs
Those of you wondering what an old-school program was were probably well behaved in school (or at the very least didn't get caught doing drugs). Either way, old-school programs are where children caught with drugs are sent to receive a harsh education on what can happen if you abuse drugs. The only problem? Most of these old-school programs are just that: old-school programs. Instead of giving a modern and factual education on drugs, most old-school programs revert to the same old scare tactics they've used for decades to keep kids sober. Graphic photographs and scary stories only go so far in keeping children away from dangerous drugs. A thorough drug education works much better.
Drug Education in Higher Learning
Perhaps the most thorough drug education programs in school are those taken through institutions of higher learning. But what's wrong about further drug education in college? Nothing, except that not everyone goes to college! So why is it that only those who receive a higher level of education are given the most accurate and factual drug education?
Just about every young adult is going to encounter drugs and yet only college-educated young adults are taught what to do with them! And if an eighteen-year-old fresh out of high school is ready for a more straightforward drug education then why isn't the eighteen-year-old in high school? Higher learning is all about asking questions and the reason for such a disparity in high school and college level drug education leaves room for a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. Sure, college programs don't cover all drugs as well as they should but at least they give it the good old college try! A slightly informational drug education is better than a misleading one, even if college programs are rather weed/alcohol-centric.
How Drug Education in School Could Change (for the Better!)
Drug education in school doesn't need to be a taboo subject like it currently is. No one is suggesting that drugs are, in any way, good for children. Drug education, however, is not the same as endorsement. Teaching students how to safely and responsibly navigate a world full of drugs shouldn't even be a question up for debate! Of course, students should receive a comprehensive and truthful account of drugs they're likely to encounter in adulthood. The quality of drug education in school can change and it seriously needs to. All of the tools for comprehensive drug education are already out there for anyone willing to search for them.
Drug Education in School
Drug education in school should be factual and comprehensive without personal bias clouding the issue. Teachers and staff often let their own opinions on the topic cloud the way they teach the material. Finding educated and unbiased teachers for drug education in schools should be paramount for the future of drug education. Schools should collect a variety of factual textbooks and sources of information for their students.
They should also teach about drugs with a special attention to nuance and make sure the children know which drugs are more dangerous or addictive than others, which drugs shouldn't be taken with others, and how to avoid the most common mistakes with drugs. A well-educated young adult is much less likely to overdose on heroin than someone who hasn't even been taught how easy overdosing is. No child should go through life thinking that smoking weed is as bad as smoking meth since that simply isn't true! Drug education in school needs to become truthful and honest because these children deserve a truthful and honest education. After all, no one is going to shelter them after they turn eighteen – they need to be capable of taking care of themselves. Lying, withholding, and misdirecting their drug education is inexcusable and plain old wrong.
Drug Education at Home
No parent should leave their children's drug education entirely up to the school. Just like 'the talk,' it’s important to sit down with your child at various ages and discuss with them an age-appropriate level of personal drug education. As adults, parents have a much better understanding of drugs and their place in society, an understanding that children could only benefit from! Giving children a drug education at home means the parents also have control over what kind of information their child is learning. Just make sure that, as a parent, your child is getting a real and factual account and not your personal opinion. They'll form their own opinion on drugs whether you like it or not, so it really is better to stick to the facts.
Drug Education for All
Perhaps the most important step for having a better drug education in school is to ensure that everyone has a better drug education. From grandparents to grandchildren, no one should purposefully stay ignorant about the reality of drugs. If everyone were to share a basic and factual understanding of drugs, then it would be much harder to hold onto personal biases and beliefs. Fully comprehensive drug education also has the added side-effect of eliminating all those generation-old misconceptions. This goes for those who are too far in any direction on the drug scale from parents who claim weed is evil to those parents who smoke with their teens. We as a nation need to find the equal playing field where facts are more important than feelings. There's more nuance to drugs than just bad and good and it is time for everyone, not just students, to realize that.
The Future of Drug Education in School
The future of drug education in school is unpredictable but with cannabis legalization sweeping the nation, something obviously needs to change. Weed is still a schedule one drug according to the federal government, recreationally legal in some states, and taboo in schools. It's no wonder teens are so rebellious and confused – anyone would be if they had to sift through all that contradictory drug education just to find a few facts! Hopefully, we can expect to see a change in the way schools teach drug education in the future. That future can only happen if everyone reaches a baseline of facts about drugs, free of bias. Until then we can expect to continue to see the trend of misinformation and non-information in drug education in school.