I have mixed feelings about drug education in our schools primarily because I was never sure at the upper elementary or middle school level if I was educating them about the dangers of drugs or giving them ideas.
I have learned some things about drug education in the schools over the years. First do not tell 5th graders that marijuana grows wild nearly all over the U.S because the government planted fields of it during both World Wars to be used in rope making.
Second,I would advise against telling them, that in all likelihood they have some growing wild somewhere near where they live. In rural areas through the middle of the country from east to west almost any fence line or untilled ground may harbor some “ditch weed” and in the urban areas I know from experience, as an apartment manager, that some really strong and tall marijuana plants can often be found in any un-tended area around the dumpsters(apparently the users have never actually seen it growing or my grounds maintenance and their drug purchase bills would have been lower).
The result of making these first two mistakes is likely to involve a meeting with the superintendent and a review of all of your lesson plans and drug education materials by somebody.
Third do not try to scare teenagers with fear scenarios ala “The Demon Weed” because all of them believe firmly that they are immortal and that it will not happen to them and indeed it won’t happen to the vast majority of them.
Fourth, Give them truths, discuss some examples of how drugs can grab a hold of your life and destroy it. Point out movie stars and athletes that have all the money in the world to do anything that they want to do and yet have become so trapped by their own drug use that they typically are often found alone, overdosed, and dead in a hotel room filled with their only remaining friends, their drugs.
Fifth, In some way get the message across to parents that the current marijuana being sold is not your father’s marijuana. High quality marijuana, due to enhanced genetics and cultivation, now has about 6 times the active ingredients that it had in the 70’s. It is a much stronger drug than it used to be. The example I often use is to think of it in terms of drinking one can of beer in 10 minutes or drinking 6 cans of beer in 10 minutes. How about 6 bottles of wine in an hour or 6 shots of vodka in a minute.
In middle school I was always particularly concerned about teaching about the dangers of huffing (using inhalants) as they are too available in every home; some students are insatiably curious, and curiosity can kill the
Cat Kid. The reality of huffing as I understand it is that you either get high or you die and there is little ground in between. So where is the line between education and a “how to manual,” I have never been too sure. I agree that knowledge is power, but power without experience and responsibility (teenagers) is a dangerous thing.
I have also discovered that middle school kids will talk at length about meth, heroin, LSD and cocaine and about their encounters with users of these drugs but they don’t want to have anything to do with discussions concerning marijuana and ecstasy. Probably unfortunately because that discussion would hit too close to home for comfort.
©2011 Richard Safris