If only I had known then what I know now, I would never have taken that first hit!” This is the common cry of Drug addicted people all over the world. It matters little if the drug is Heroin, crystal Methamphetamine, Hashish or Crack Cocaine. The whole process that eventually led to this person’s ruined life, their diminished potential, ravaged body and blunted mental capacity could have been avoided if the original act had never occurred.
It seems obvious that no one would begin an activity that stands a good chance of ruining their life unless they did not know or did not believe that it could actually happen to them. But most schools in the United States have some form of drug education. So why is it that in the U.S. there are still roughly seven thousand young people trying illegal drugs for the first time each day?
We have been hearing for years that most kids will try drugs no matter what the adults say. This is from a group that forwards a theory called Harm Reduction. They hold that the best we can do is teach young people to use drugs safely or responsibly. But how do you take crack Cocaine safely? What is the responsible way to use heroin or crystal methamphetamine?
The “responsible use” of illegal drugs approach does not allow for the fact that the first thing to go with drug use is the user’s judgment. This is especially troubling in young people who are in the process of developing social and decision making skills. Drug Addiction itself is defined in part by the inability to use good judgment
The time for good judgment is BEFORE THE DRUG USE STARTS. And in view of the fact that many addicted persons began their experimentation with drugs at age ten, eleven or twelve, this means we had better be in their classrooms, on their television channels and in their faces with the truth about drugs before that point.
Some of the same sources of ‘Harm Reduction’ theories advocate the removal of legal penalties for possession of and eventually the total decriminalization and even legalization of all drugs. They argue that there is a “Forbidden Fruit” effect which tends to lead potential addicts right to the drug; that therefore, all restrictions should be removed and that drugs will just magically begin to go out of style and become passe.
This is an obvious fallacy. The number one killer of all drugs is Tobacco. Addiction to Nicotine takes hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the U.S. alone, yet it is legal to possess or use over the age of 18. Keeping it out of the hands of minors is nearly impossible. The second biggest killer is Alcohol, also legal and without any forbidden fruit effects. Addiction to alcohol and nicotine takes people right to their graves. Drugs are not damaging because they are illegal, they are illegal because they are damaging
It is irresponsible to give up on our youth and proclaim Drug abuse an inevitability with which we must learn to live.
We know that drug Abstinence is the goal and we know that drug abstinence training is effective. Opponents of drug prevention efforts argue that past drug prevention has totally failed. The truth is that drug preventative education does work and users are in the minority. Surveys show that even though drugs may be readily available to most students, the majority of them do NOT use.
We must support abstinence from drug use as a reasonable and achievable goal for public health policy; and support a message of no use of illegal drugs or misuse of legal drugs.
Research has consistently shown that there is a direct correlation between use of a drug and the belief that it is harmful. The more young people believe that a certain substance will harm them, the fewer young people will use that substance.
Our drug prevention activities are helping. Now is not the time to back off, now is the time to step up our efforts, to make the kids even more aware and to alert them to the elements in society that are there trying to promote the use of drugs. If they are truly informed and know the damages that result from illegal drugs and misuse of legal ones, we can reduce the numbers of drug users dramatically.