Pubdate: Fri, 29 Jan 2016
Source: Guelph Mercury (CN ON)
Copyright: 2016 Metroland Media Group Ltd.
Author: Justine Kraemer
Page: A11


It seems like only yesterday Ontarians were faced with the news that,
after many years, the sex education curriculum in public schools was
getting a much needed revamp.

Imagine if you will, in an alternate reality, that this new curriculum
contained a directive to teach students that masturbation led to
blindness. In 2016, we would collectively consider this absurd. We
would identify this as blatant attempt to frighten students from
seeking out any sexual encounters in the vain hope that they will put
any ideas of sex from their minds indefinitely.

If this example sounds unbelievable, this was a reality for many
people educated several decades ago.

If I ask you now to consider the current programs that are supposed to
educate students about drugs, you will soon see that they make just as
much sense as my outdated sex education example.

For many decades now, the status quo has been to simply reinforce laws
prohibiting any and all drug use in education programs, regardless of
evidence suggesting potential benefits.

In a recent interview, Mark Haden, an adjunct professor at the
University of British Columbia, lamented the ineffectiveness of Drug
Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), the most popular anti-drug
education program in North America.

"At best, you can say it's been a waste of money, at worst you can say
it's caused harm," he stated.

In Haden's view, current anti-drug education leads to the public being
afraid not only ofdrugs themselves, but of drug users.

Haden identified four paradigms in which people interact with drugs:
beneficial, neutral, problematic and harmful. A beneficial interaction
with drugs involves a therapeutic effect for the user. A neutral drug
user will have no consistent effects of drug use. An individual with a
problematic relationship with drugs may notice impairment in certain
areas of their personal lives over time as a result of drug use. Those
with harmful ties to drugs are directly damaged by their drug use.

According to Haden, a drug-education program must include an open and
honest discussion of these four paradigms, and how society needs to
engage with drugs.

If our education about drugs improves, it follows that as a society we
will become more open to the decriminalization of drug use.

During the lead up to our most recent election, our now Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau included promises that a Liberal government would
support measures to relax and change current drug laws in his campaign.

This is indeed a positive first step, since up until now, prohibitory
drug laws have ensured that public health and safety is at risk, and
that drug users are treated as criminals.

Prohibitory drug laws have also ensured that research into the
potential benefits of currently illegal drugs has been difficult to
come by. Who knows how many benefits can be derived from the safely
administered, medically controlled use of currently banned substances.

It's clear that our current anti-drug mentality isn't working. Perhaps
we need to not wage war on drugs themselves, since drugs are neither
inherently good nor bad, but on ignorance and lies that have plagued
this conversation for so long.
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