Taking a Look at Drug Education—No One Can Avoid Responsibility

Woman talking with kid

Drug and alcohol addiction is tearing our society apart, creating a severe struggle and hardship for millions of American families. While teens and young adults as a demographic do not experiment with hard drugs to the same degree that grown adults do, when this does happen, the effect is devastating. Short of a death in the family, I think it would be hard to find a familial crisis or event that would cause as much grief and trauma as that of a son or daughter succumbing to drug and alcohol addiction.

One of the reasons why young people even consider experimenting with drugs and alcohol in the first place is because of peer pressure. Young people are very susceptible to this. If a young adult or teen does not have sufficient understanding of the harms and dangers of drugs and alcohol, they are more likely to succumb to peer pressure and to start experimenting.

The way to avoid this is to get young adults and teens educated about drugs and alcohol to teach them the truth about these harmful substances at an early age. They would then know for themselves, why they wouldn’t want to experiment with drugs and alcohol.

But when we take a brief look at the condition of drug and alcohol education in young adult and adolescent age groups, it’s almost nonexistent. There is no mandate to include drug education in schools, and most parents don’t make it a point to teach their kids about the harms and dangers of drugs and alcohol.

If education and raising awareness of drug and alcohol addiction is the answer to reducing teen exposure to drugs and heavy drinking, why is it not being done?

A Question of Responsibility

This seems to be a classic case of debate over responsibility. It’s similar to the discussion about sex education. Parents often feel it is the school’s responsibility to teach kids about “difficult to talk about” subjects like drugs and alcohol. And the schools don’t generally consider these subjects within their range of “educational necessity.”

The situation would almost be silly if it weren’t for the dire stakes at hand.

Why can’t both schools and parents take responsibility for educating kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol?

Age-old excuses like, “Teens should already know not to use drugs and alcohol,” or “It’s common knowledge that drugs are bad, they should know that,” or “We never used drugs, why would they?” are just excuses used to avoid a supposedly uncomfortable conversation.

In reality, to protect our youth’s future and to ensure that our sons and daughters do not use drugs or drink heavily, we need to institute educational programs in all schools and also encourage all parents to make drug education a priority in their households.

“Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.”
Little girl is drinking alcohol.

Why Drug Education Is Crucial

The Greek philosopher Plato said, “Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.” That maxim is applicable in hundreds of different scenarios, including this one. Drug addiction is one of the greatest “evils” of man—a terrible affliction that affects millions, kills thousands, and ruins countless families.

But if people, young, grown, and old alike knew more about this subject, they would not so easily fall prey to it.

Here we have an interesting paradox; because drug and alcohol addiction is so awful, the entire subject has become taboo. Drug and alcohol addiction is known to be wrong, so we just don’t talk about it. We don’t talk about it because it is terrible yet we need to encourage intelligent and comfortable discourse about it to reduce the frequency of it!

This is one of those quirks of human nature. Drug addiction is a crisis that festers in the absence of discussion about it as well as the absence of knowledgable prevention efforts taken against it. The very aspect of our nature that causes us to turn away from confronting the drug issue is part of what is allowing this issue to become a more severe crisis within our society.

That’s why drug education is so crucial.

Drug Education in Schools

The application of drug education in schools is simple enough. School curricula need to include some form of class or seminar on the subject. Kids and teenagers alike need to understand what drugs are, what they look like, what their effects are, the habit-forming risks attendant with their use, and the constant threat of overdose and death.

Kids and teens also need to be educated on the drug problem in the country today. They need to know the real effect of drug and alcohol misuse in the world. They need to know that tens of thousands of people die from drug-related causes every year. They need to know that opioids are ravaging our streets and our homes and that certain pharmaceuticals are just as likely to have a negative effect as they are to have a positive one.

Happy school kids.

If schools worked together to implement basic educational material on drugs and alcohol, young people would be much less likely to experiment with the very substances they had just learned the truth about.

Drug Education from Parents

Parents can offer a unique educational opportunity for their kids. They can make this discussion more personable and more face-to-face than what their sons or daughters might get at school. This is the perfect opportunity for parents to have a candid and private conversation with a son or a daughter about different types of drugs, their effects, their dangers, their threats of causing addiction, and so on.

Another route that parents can take (though this discussion can be left to personal preference), is to talk with their kids about the parents’ own history with drugs and alcohol if there is any. Parents will have to judge for their own family if this is the right course of action to take or not. But when parents talk to their adolescent kids about their own harmful, first-hand travails in the past with drugs or alcohol, it can instantly turn their kids off of the idea of experimenting with such substances.

The opportunity available to parents is all but endless. They can set up conversations with their kids in whatever way suits their family best. But the important thing is to have the conversation and keep having the conversation as the kids grow up.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a harmful, continuous blow to our society, with more people dying from drugs every year, more drug and alcohol-influenced car accidents, more overdoses, more people being newly exposed to drugs, more drug deals, more overstuffing of the prison system with addicts, more futures ruined, and so on. This problem only begins to end when we all decide to get more educated about it and then do something about it. But first we have to understand the problem, and we have to make sure the next generation of adults understands it too.

Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.