Education and Prevention – A Protection Against Drug Use
Drug Use: The Director of the European Monitoring Center on Drug and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) in the presentation of the 2021 Drug Report (*), stated: “Today, drugs have become a much more pervasive problem, one that impacts in some way across all major policy areas. We also see diversification, both in the products available and the people who use them”. Around 83 million (or 28.9 %) of adults (aged 15-64) in the European Union are estimated to have used illicit drugs in their lifetime, and this should be regarded as a minimum estimate.
According to the experiences on the ground in some twenty European countries by the teams of volunteers of the hundred Say No To Drugs (SNTD) associations and groups, the contacts were established with youth and parents either through lectures in schools and associations or individually at their booths held on places and markets, they noticed a great ignorance regarding the harming effects of the most commonly used psychoactive drugs including alcohol and cannabis.
Even if many governmental publications, statistics and temporary actions are issued, they do not effectively reach the general public level and in particular, the teenagers who are the most vulnerable. Too often the SNTD teams are also witnessing the disenchantment of many teachers and educators complaining of a lack of time and materials to preventively and properly educate the pupils and young students on the adverse -not to say health destructive- effects of illicit drug use and the consequences for their development and life.
Facing the drug problem, the national, regional and local authorities have the responsibility to provide their people and youth with the safe and effective health protection and care they deserve. This is embodied in the United Nations International Drug Control Conventions (1961, 1971, 1988), the European Union Charter and also specifically in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (art.33). Despite this, in the last decades, broad and smart publicities for alcohol and cannabis are flourishing, based on vested interests not only for drug dealers and their powerful networks but also for the producing companies and on the Dark Web/online for other powerful drugs.
Regarding the illicit drugs, from a health viewpoint and impact on the economy, it is time for the governing bodies and concerned government agencies to get serious to prevent their costly harming effects on the society at large. Indeed, only considering the profits made but neglecting the subsequent costs for treatments and support of the addicts, the false aids as the “harm reduction”, the misdemeanours and repression, and the loss of productivity, is a short term evaluation instead of taking into account the economic, health and life burdens on the long term. This wise concern had already been formulated in the 13th century: “It is better and more useful to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done”. Unfortunately, yielding to tendentious pressures this is not the orientation that predominates. And the whole is leading to the progressive disintegration not only of the family unit but also of the societal and economic stuff.
What is the missing protective element and what can be done?
During their drug prevention campaigns on the ground, the SNTD volunteers noticed the youth and even parents had a blatant lack of factual relevant data on the subject, making them easy prey for the “dealers”.
Education on the drug subject is currently the main weak point when undeniably it should be the key point: “Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance” said the historian and philosopher William J. Durant (1885-1981). And the knowledge matters when dealing with the use of any illicit harmful drugs and substances.
As a matter of fact, the first step for an efficient protection is to empower the youth and any person with the right data on what drugs are and what they do to raise their awareness on the subject, and give them the possibility to make an informed decision to stay drug-free and to have the appropriate answers to any proposal from any dealers.
Another point to take into account is the legal, social and cultural environment in which the child develops. Indeed, the youth are submitted to numerous influences acting as risk or preventive factors. They include family, school, peers, neighbourhood, leisure, social networks, etc. These latter are all also involved in the education of the youth. Among these influences, authors (Hill et al. 2018; Trujillo et al. 2019) have evidenced that the behaviour and practices of parents have a strong impact on the youth’s probability of opposing or succumbing to drug use and are also determinant in the early prevention of the drug problems.
Alongside or in support of the EU Drugs Strategy and of the governmental agencies for drug protection are on-the-ground actions of the civil society through its associations. In this frame, the Foundation for a Drug-Free Europe (FDFE) and its European SNTDs as part of their prevention program The Truth About Drugs is making available educative materials (booklets, DVDs, Manuals)** and videos online for teachers and educators and are delivering lectures on simple requests.
The basic principle “Prevention is better than cure” coined by the philosopher D. Erasmus (circa the year 1500) is more than ever true in our current society when considering the world of drugs. In his works of the 1960ies, the humanist and author L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1980) was stating: “Research has demonstrated that the single most destructive element present in our current culture is drugs.” So, a fact-based education on drugs will help the youth and population to make healthier lifestyle choices and to enjoy a safer and saner life because human misery is also in the wake of drug use. Thus, only the knowledge will protect and will allow the goals and dreams to come true.
So, keeping in mind that drug prevention begins with education, let’s use this to build a better society!