A New Approach to Drug Education

Conversations about drugs and alcohol are nerve-wracking and tricky. These conversations must take place as they can impact further or future usage. Today’s guest blogger takes a fresh approach and give tips on how to approach the tough conversations. MWM

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Some people may agree that traditional drug abuse prevention efforts have missed several opportunities to do what they should do best: educate and provide facts. Why is alcohol dangerous? No idea. Can marijuana cause permanent brain changes? Who knows. Why shouldn’t we steal our parent’s painkillers? What’s the worst that could happen? That’s why ProjectKnow.com, a website dedicated to educating adolescents and their families about substance abuse powered by Recovery Brands, created its first-ever podcast focused entirely on accurate, research-based drug education: Let’s Talk Drugs.

We’ve found that misinformation surrounding drugs is often soaked in myth, without any factual evidence to support it. While many teens and young adults understand that injecting heroin can kill a person, the unfortunate reality is that relatively few recognize the dire health risks of something as common as regular weekend bar nights. Many people don’t understand that alcohol is one of the most prevalent, dangerous, and addictive substances, yet it’s rarely talked about in health classes. This is just one example of countless drug misunderstandings that can have serious consequences.

We wanted to do something about these misconceptions and help create more open conversations around substance use, from taking a critical eye to the many ways that our modern culture glamorizes it, to debunking common myths and explaining in a digestible language how drugs actually affect the brain. Rather than using traditional scare tactics, we wanted to show that it’s okay — and important — to acknowledge the facts about drugs.

The education that surrounds drugs must address both sides of the issue: acknowledging the allure while simultaneously highlighting the risks.”

For the most part, the people who are going to try drugs will do it regardless of efforts and attempts of scaring them away from it. Instead of approaching drug education with “just say no,” we want to see a culture shift that explains why saying “no” is in a person’s best interest.

So instead of saying, “Don’t smoke weed because it’s bad for you” (with the implied “just trust me because I’m an adult” thrown in), let’s say, “There’s never been a recorded case of lethal marijuana overdose and it can help with certain medical conditions, but research has shown that using it regularly can cause long-term functional brain changes that can affect learning, memory, and the ability to control your impulses.”

One of our major goals is to encourage everyone to ask questions about drugs. We want parents, teachers, and even peers to take advantage of the opportunity to talk openly about substance abuse, and we hope to help guide and encourage these conversations with the podcast.

  • Listen with your kids. Listening together as a family can be a bonding experience that shows your kids it’s okay to ask questions about drugs. Creating a safe space to communicate is a vital part of drug education and prevention.
  • Play episodes in school. Educators play a major role in helping to prevent substance abuse. Listening to this form of drug education as a class is a fun break from the normal day-to-day lessons, and it opens the floor to questions and critical discussion afterward.
  • Research together. Sometimes young adults prefer to absorb new information on their own. Listening separately isn’t a bad thing- it gives everyone time to privately absorb the information and organize their thoughts and feelings about the topic. Bring these reactions, along with any other questions that may come up, to a family drug talk where everyone investigates substance facts together.
  • Assign fun homework. Schools — and parents — can assign the podcast for a fun, out-of-the-ordinary homework assignment. Ask students to listen and bring critical questions to a group discussion.
  • Simply listen. Even if you’re unsure about a group or family discussion, encouraging your children, family members, local organizations, and schools to explore new ways to absorb and communicate vital drug information will help provide the substance education kids need.

One of the most important parts of drug education is critical engagement, which is why we cannot shy away from these discussions. I was fortunate enough to have a very open household when it came to substance use discussions. My parents’ message was always, “If you’re going to experiment, make sure you are safe.” They always encouraged me to investigate the available research on drugs that I was curious about so I could identify any potential dangers as well as any long-term effects the drugs may have. We had very open conversations about addiction as well.

 Both sides of my family have a history of alcoholism, so it was always important for my parents to speak frankly with me about the very real risk of developing an alcohol dependence.”

Because of these conversations, I was always extremely cautious with my own substance use, keeping a close eye on my usage patterns and behaviors. When I noticed an unhealthy pattern of drinking in college, I was able to quickly identify it and work to change it. I was extremely fortunate to have a family that was so open and honest about drug talk, but starting that conversation can be intimidating for a lot of parents and educators. Sometimes the fear of indirectly encouraging drug experimentation overpowers the desire to educate, which is where we hope to step in.

Communication is certainly not the only key to dismantling the widespread issue of substance abuse and addiction, but it is a major part of early education and prevention. Teens and young adults are still developing the brain network necessary for action planning and impulse control, and the earlier we can reach them with important drug facts, the better prepared they will be when faced with drug use decisions. There are many parts to this puzzle, and we aim to contribute in our own way.

Let’s Talk Drugs takes a non-judgmental approach to drug talk so we can show that being honest about drug education doesn’t mean encouraging use. We really want teens and young adults to feel safe asking questions about drugs- they’re fascinating substances that inspire a whole lot of curiosity, and that’s awesome!

If we can motivate teens and young adults to take a close look at drug use and the potential consequences that come with it, then they will be equipped with the tools they need to make informed decisions.”

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About the author:

unnamed-1After completing her undergraduate work in perceptual processing, Lauren Brande was awarded a scholarship from the Western Psychological Association. She completed her Master of Arts degree in Psychology from Boston University in 2014 and found she had a particular interest in the effects that drugs and trauma have on the functioning brain. She’s currently a senior content writer for Recovery Brands, which is a provider of digital addiction treatment resources operating a portfolio of websites such as ProjectKnow.com, Rehabs.com and Recovery.org. Lauren believes all research should be digestible and accessible to everyone. Her passion fuels her desire to share important scientific findings to improve rehabilitation.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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