Last year 1,146 teenagers died as a result of a drug overdose in America, and it is reported that 1 in every 7 teenagers has a substance abuse disorder according to American Addiction Centers. Drugs have the power to destroy lives, and if teens were given honest drug education, these lives could be saved. Berkeley High School has not implemented district-wide drug education and this must change for the sake of teenage safety in the community.
The BHS community is not unfamiliar with drug use; it’s very common to enter a bathroom full of people vaping. This is often expected and normalized. However, we forget the real effects that uneducated and unsafe drug use can have.
Nina Thompson, president of the BHS Harm Education and Reduction Organization (HERO) club at BHS spoke on how this issue affects BHS students. According to Thompson, the club has seen BHS kids with many different experiences, ranging from risky experimentation to much bigger issues.
“People can get addicted or dependent,” Thompson said. “Use can get in the way of their school work… (and) some people on the more extreme side (have) to go to rehab or other forms of treatment because it (is) getting in the way of their health.”
At BHS, HERO is trying to provide missing education and advocate for drug education. Almost everyone who is a junior or younger should have gotten an in-class presentation from HERO in their freshman year on reducing risk with drugs. Although this is a step in the right direction, most schools don’t have this, and there is a need for district-wide implementation of drug education.
This is why BHS carries a responsibility to include drug education in the high school curriculum. A massive amount of misinformation about drugs is out there. The effects of drugs are easily underestimated or exaggerated, which means a one-time experiment can lead to addiction.
Abstinence-based drug education is also problematic, as it spreads misinformation, not giving teens the information they need in order to be safe. We know that abstinence-based sex education does not work to reduce teen pregnancy and STDs. In the same way, abstinence-based drug education doesn’t work to reduce overdose and addiction.
Non-abstinence-based drug education teaches students about different kinds of drugs, what they do, what they look like, and how addictive they are. It also looks like informing students on what to do in case of an overdose and who to go to for help.
Not providing accurate drug education allows misinformation to spread, meaning that most teens won’t know how to deal with unsafe situations or where to go for help. Providing accurate in-school drug education would have a hugely positive effect on the way teens approach and use drugs.