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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Drugs in our schools – why not?

    Eric Moll columnist
    Eric Moll
    columnist

    I am a graduate of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, the primary “”demand-side”” drug-control strategy of the War on Drugs, operating in 80 percent of our nation’s school districts. Uniformed police officers teach fifth and sixth graders about the evils of drug, alcohol and tobacco abuse, focusing on increasing self-esteem and reducing peer pressure. I signed a pledge, which I later violated, to never join a gang or use drugs, and then I got a free T-shirt.

    Unfortunately for the War on Drugs, D.A.R.E. doesn’t reduce drug use. A six-year study published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency found that graduates of the program are actually more likely to use alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs. It would appear that the system is broken.

    Indoctrination is rarely as successful as honesty, and our national approach to drug education is nothing if not dishonest. The problem is not falsehoods being taught as fact; most of the lies inherent in these programs are lies by omission. Schools teach children all the bad things about drugs, glossing over the good things. Drugs are vilified, as are the people who use them. At some point, reality intrudes, and things fall apart: Fifth and sixth graders, so ready to listen to a man in a uniform, grow up a bit. In the truest spirit of education and discovery, they seek to experiment, to determine for themselves if the world they learn about in school is the same one in which they live.

    They begin to ask questions. If I’m allowed to buy tobacco at the age of 18, and I’m allowed to buy alcohol when I’m 21, how old must I be to purchase this “”cannabis”” thing you speak of? Next, they discover that casual drug use is no more dangerous than legal hobbies like mountain biking.

    Part of the problem here

    A truly comprehensive curriculum would encourage trust from students. Once students think that they’ve been deceived, it’s hard to keep from disregarding the entire lesson plan.

    is the discrepancy between science and law. Marijuana is illegal, but it is incredibly safe compared to other oft-abused drugs like alcohol, heroin and cocaine. There has never been a case of accidental overdose, and numerous scientific studies suggest that THC, a prominent component in marijuana, does not kill brain cells, does not cause permanent loss of any brain function and does not cause lung cancer, even in heavy smokers.

    According to the U.K. Medical Research Council and the Science & Technology Committee, even ecstasy is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. Neurotoxicity from MDMA occurs only through dehydration, hyperthermia and low antioxidant levels.

    If drug education programs want to protect children from harm, they should be honest about these things. My D.A.R.E. officer should have said: “”Hey kids, ecstasy is illegal, but if you ever do it, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink fruit juice or iced tea instead of just water, so you avoid hyponatremia.””

    Even more elementally, a truly comprehensive curriculum would encourage trust from students. Once students think that they’ve been deceived, it’s hard to keep from disregarding the entire lesson plan. It doesn’t even matter if the deception is intentional or unintentional, the result of addition or omission – someone will notice and then credibility dies forever.

    Now you’re asking, “”But why, if schools are so bad at drug education, should they even bother? Why not leave it up to parents, or television or the Internet?”” Well, that’s a very good question, and I’m glad you asked it. Here’s my answer: We don’t get to vote for parents and we can’t choose what’s on TV except through fickle market forces. As for the Internet, Web sites like Wikipedia and Erowid are excellent tools, but we’ve got a big drug problem in America. Too many people are addicted to drugs like meth and Prozac and alcohol, too many people misunderstand the effects of fun drugs like cannabis and alcohol and ecstasy, and not enough people are teaching new generations how to tell the difference.

    The education system is also wonderfully situated to provide hands-on training in a safe environment. Why not serve some red wine with cafeteria lunches? Red wine has many valuable nutrients, and if there’s one thing that third graders need after a morning of arithmetic and spelling, it’s a stiff drink.

    Once the students hit adolescence, they should be provided with a small psychoactive drug starter kit, containing samples of the least dangerous drugs, plus a little handbook listing the unsafe dosages, by body weight, of popular recreational drugs.

    If the idea of giving drugs to our students offends you, here’s a compromise: We’ll set it up just like a sex-ed course, and the teacher can stand at the front of the room and demonstrate, just like with the condom-banana demonstration. This is your D.A.R.E. officer, this is your D.A.R.E. officer on drugs – any questions? If there’s one thing that a cop needs after a day of teaching rowdy fifth graders about drugs, it’s a nicely rolled joint. As spoken by the indispensable Samuel Clemens, “”Man should practice moderation in all things, including moderation.””

    Eric Moll is an English. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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