Just Say Know: Shifting Perceptions on Drug Use

Just Say Know: Shifting Perceptions on Drug Use

Written by Guest Blogger Karen Walker, Peer Education Intern

As history and research can show us, prohibitive drug laws have always operated as a method of social control. Every approach by the government and its corresponding entities have been motivated by the morality of drug use; effectiveness is measured by the number of arrests and seizures rather than health and safety outcomes. The tone from those at the top perceiving users of certain drugs as immoral has drastically biased our culture’s views of drug users. We should question why certain substances are classified by medical potential or the potential for harm when alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are used for purely recreational purposes and hold plenty of risks. With such an obvious discrepancy as this, we can begin to wonder whether or not illegal drugs are as dangerous as our policy reflects. Are users of illegal drugs any different than users of legal ones?

The bias reflected in our policy manifests in individuals as “my drugs are good, but yours are bad.” Rather than maintaining this mindset, individuals should accept their own drug use by understanding that no one, including oneself, is wrong for their personal use of drugs. The legalization of medicinal cannabis, while a champion in its own right, has added to the complexity of our views. Accepting the use of cannabis only for medicinal purposes gives further reason to shun those who use it for recreational purposes. In our collective mind, using drugs in accordance with traditional medicine is the only acceptable purpose, but using drugs to seek pleasure, spiritual enlightenment, or personal healing are not. Again, when considering alcohol, tobacco, or caffeine, there is no distinction between their uses because they are strictly recreational. What purpose is served by making this distinction, other than to label what is wrong or right for others?

Asking ourselves these questions allows us to break down the barriers of judgment that our policy has constructed between us. Although personal use of drugs – whether it be medicinal, spiritual, or recreational – is shared amongst all members of society, our policy does not exist to protect all users equally. SSDP Peer Educators can fill in the gaps where our policy left us targeted or vulnerable. Our SSDP Peer Education program seeks to empower students in our network to analyze the relationship between drug policy and drug use by providing evidence-based drug information, teaching students to recognize and address dangerous behaviors and unhealthy attitudes, and promoting prosocial and harm reduction oriented practices.

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