Starting Conversations

How & Why to Talk to Young People about Mind-Altering Drugs

A guide written for the Hearst Museum of Anthropology exhibit entitled “Pleasure, Poison, Prescription, Prayer: The Worlds of Mind-Altering Substances( 2019-2020)" to support parents in having a dialogue with their child about drugs and drug use, explore each one another's beliefs, and share boundaries and expectations

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A Qualitative Study of "No-Use" Drug Education

A School-Based Public Health Perspective

The passing of Prop 64 (Legalization of Cannabis) in California prompted me to explore if and how schools in the Bay Area were shifting their prevention and education services to reflect the new context. In-depth qualitative interviews with secondary school health workers and alcohol and drug education program specialists revealed that they considered "no-use" programs not only invalid, but detrimental for youth coping with depression, anxiety, and trauma. Without addressing the conditions that have influenced their behavior, stigmatizing and pathologizing substance use is not only ineffective but cruel.  At the same time, an absence of systemic efforts or district pressure for culturally relevant and trauma-informed drug education has left adults who reject "no use" drug education to "just say nothing" to the young people they consider most at-risk.  The findings of this study suggest that we need more nuanced and sensitive understanding of the lived experiences of young people who use drugs to guide the creation of education and prevention services. 

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The Fallacy of the Ideological Pursuit of Abstinence

The Pitfalls of Youth Drug Prevention Programs in America

Abstinence-only drug education has failed young people and raised additional harms for those who are most at-risk for misusing drugs (through scare-tactics, exaggerations, stigma, and punishment). In my undergraduate honor's thesis, I review the literature on national drug education policy and programs, and suggest that our efforts to protect and improve the health of young people will be better served if drug education focused on developing the protective factors that enable young people to have the capacity to make healthier drug-use decisions and to thrive over course over lives-- a positive youth development approach to drug education and prevention. 

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