The Drug Policy Alliance created a new drug education curriculum for high school teachers—available online for free download—that doesn’t rely on demonizing drugs and alcohol. Instead, the curriculum is based on harm reduction principles—an alternative to abstinence-only drug education programs like the original version of D.A.R.E.
The DPA, a non-profit organization that promotes drug policy reform, explained the difference: “For example, abstinence-only education may tell young people that they should refrain from using drugs because they could overdose. Harm reduction drug education explains how to recognize the signs of drug overdose, how to respond and how to get help if they fear that a friend is overdosing.”
Safety First: Real Drug Education For Teens
The package of 15 lesson plans (PowerPoint slides included)—titled Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens—goes over material that is familiar to traditional drug education curricula like Alcohol & Other Depressants, Vaping & E-Cigarettes and Cannabis.
But other lessons, like Mental Health and Coping and Health & Policy, feel new to generations who were raised on D.A.R.E.
Sasha Simon, Safety First program manager for the DPA, told Benzingathat the organization saw the need for a comprehensive, alternative drug education program.
“Safety First was created in response to a lack of accurate, science-based and compassionate drug resources in schools,” she said. “With nearly 70,000 people dying of accidental overdose last year alone, it is essential that our young people develop the necessary skills to navigate their risks. Not only will it protect them while in school, but will serve as a foundation for them to foster healthy attitudes and habits around drugs that they will carry with them throughout their lives.”
Testing the Curriculum on Students
The Safety First curriculum was piloted in New York City and San Francisco, and produced positive results, DPA said.
They observed in the much larger San Francisco trial, where over 600 students were taught the curriculum, that students demonstrated increased knowledge of harm reduction, drugs and alcohol, and how to detect and respond to a drug-related overdose.