As SSDPers embark on their mission as Peer Educators, studying previous drug education practices can benefit the success of this unprecedented program. Since its fruition during the Temperance movement, drug education has been driven by political and moral agendas. Drug use was taught to be morally wrong, irreversibly harmful, and an indication of personal weakness. The goal of every program has been abstinence, using fear or misinformation to deter the behavior. However, this approach not only fails to deter drug use amongst students, but also leaves students ill-equipped to handle social situations where drugs are present, and denies them of life-saving information. While abstinence is the only way to ensure that individuals do not suffer negative consequences of using drugs, this approach does not educate; students who do not abstain remain as vulnerable to the harms that can come from using drugs as if there were no education at all. Whether or not students choose to use drugs, they should have the right to information that can create safer environments for everyone. Students are surrounded by drug use on a daily basis; coffee boosts in the library, alcohol consumption on the weekends, and inescapable advertisements for pharmaceuticals that are used for both medicinal and recreational purposes. The acceptance and glorification of some drugs and the demonization of others leave educators with a severe lack of credibility from the student perspective. Acting as though the use of certain drugs is abnormal or wrong in a culture surrounded by drug use only perpetuates the stigma and exacerbates the lack of credibility. It is clear that the goal of a drug-free world is unattainable, and should be shifted towards a goal of accepting the inevitable and minimizing those risks. This is where Peer Education comes in. Through the Peer Education program, students will be given evidence-based information and a chance to participate in honest discussions about the effects of using different drugs. Open-ended questions will allow students to create a realistic and useful learning experience for themselves. Peer Educators can break the stigma by promoting harm reduction over an abstinence-only approach. Without undermining that drug use does bear an inherent risk, students will come to understand that those risks can be minimized when the proper steps are taken to do so. As SSDPers, every Peer Educator will support individuals’ rights to make informed decisions about their own health and well-being, and empower that ability. This program will not only provide critical information to students who use drugs but create a more informed campus by teaching valuable information to users and non-users alike. Students will have a stronger ability to look out for one another, respect one another’s decisions without judgment, and create a safer campus community for all. You can get 10 points for writing a blog post like this / responding to the Reflection Questions from this Training Curriculum module. Check out ssdp.org/justsayknow for more information on peer education!
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