Drug education in schools downright sucks. That is all there is to it. My opinion? Drug education is important and needs to be taught; however, it needs to be improved greatly. For starters, the majority of it is straight up lies. My DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in my school lied to me. A lot. First and foremost, I was told on a regular basis about how much peer pressure there would be to do drugs in high school. This is can be described as nothing other than complete and utter bullshit. I am graduating high school in a few months and have not once been pressured into doing drugs nor do I know a single other student who has been pressured into doing drugs. This is not to say that I have not been around drugs. In fact, my town is known for its lovely heroin epidemic and I have been offered drugs on quite a few occasions. On these occasions the people offering the drugs were indeed peers, but there was absolutely no pressure involved whatsoever. The conversations were simple enough, they offered, I said no thanks, they responded with variations of one of three responses: 1. “Alright man, more for me,” 2. “More power to you, keep doing what you do,” and 3. “Okay, cool, but if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me.” Now of course, I cannot speak to the world beyond high school, but there does not seem to be a lot of pressure to do drugs, despite that being the main thing stressed in my drug education classes.
Another problem is you learn exactly nothing. Granted, I have not had a drug education class in almost four years since they stop teaching it to us in middle school, but I can count on one hand the number of thing I remember, namely: high school is NOTHING BUT PEER PRESSURE, our DARE officer gave us candy, and drugs are bad, do not even touch a drug of any kind or you will die and your parents will disown your corpse. So, basically, I learned nothing, or at least nothing at all truthful and useful. I specifically remember spending an entire class period being told to repeat the word no at an increasing volume until our DARE officer was sufficiently pleased with the tone of authority in the voice of a bunch of sixth graders. We were told that we would need to use this ‘technique’ to get rid of people who wanted to force us to do drugs. There is so many things wrong with that, I do not even know where to begin. Now, screaming the word no may be very useful in certain situations, but not a single one of those cases was discussed, instead opting to focus on screaming at people who do not need to be screamed at.
Something I keep coming across online is how DARE’s zero-tolerance policy towards drug and alcohol use is actually harmful, and as someone who has taken a DARE class, this is a perfectly legitimate observation. Drug education programs are completely and totally against drugs in such an extreme sense that it becomes counterproductive. They focus mainly on extreme cases like heroin and cocaine, telling you coming in contact with any of these types of substances is world ending for everyone. They tell you that taking any kind of drug at all ever is the end of your career, your dreams, your goals, and your life. Drugs are the forbidden fruit of the Garden of Eden and that is ridiculous. I will not get into my views on the legalization of marijuana just yet, but DARE treats it like poison rather than something potentially useful with a long history of helping people.
Drug education programs demonize drugs and drug users to such an extreme extent. Even recovered addicts are scorned in these classes for falling prey to the oh-so-evil world of drugs. In addition to all this, some parents believe that their children being taught in DARE classes in school absolves them of the responsibility to teach their children anything. This means that they are not getting the education at all, because they do not absorb what is being taught in these programs and when they do it is either wrong or, more often, has the opposite of its intended effect. The program has actually proven to be associated with an increase in drug use.
I have only been in one drug education class that helped, and it was less of a class and more of a support group. It was full of people that were addicted to drugs with a teacher that had been to jail many many times for many drug related and non-drug related offenses. To be clear, I was not in this group because I have a drug problem, I actually happened to be the only one there who had never had a drug problem, I sort of ended up there by chance. But anyway, that is beside the point. Everyone, including the teacher, sat in a circle and discussed all their run-ins with different types of drugs. I not only remember this class very clearly, but also remember every horror story as well as every “it was actually an awesome experience” story and it was the most I had ever learned about drugs in one sitting. Not only that, but I knew it was all true. There was no fluff about how terrible it was or how it would ruin your life. The teacher was encouraging, saying that recovery was possible, it did not have to ruin your life, just look at him, he was perfectly happy, rather than the usual “DON’T DO DRUGS THEY ARE EVIL AND LIFE RUINING AND RECOVERY IS IMPOSSIBLE AND IF YOU EVEN LOOK AT A DRUG YOUR LIFE IS OVER KISS HAPPINESS GOODBYE, IN FACT KISS YOUR LIFE GOODBYE YOU ARE AS GOOD AS DEAD.” Now, I will never truly understand just how difficult recovery is, I do know it is not by any means easy, but I still believe that encouraging words telling already addicted teens that it is possible is a much better tactic than attempting to preemptively horrify them.