Progressive drug education is essential in reducing the harms of drugs

Misinformation and stigma will not solve the problem

By Cazzy Lewchuk, Opinions Editor

Drug legalization is a complicated and divisive topic. Treatment, addiction, and the ethics of drug use is just as controversial. Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree: our goals should at least start with the deaths related to drug use being reduced, and eventually eliminated.

Awareness of the stigma and proper education on the realities of drugs are some of the most powerful tools in combating the problem faced by society today. Regardless of one’s stance on drugs, we must agree that understanding the true dangers is an essential. This goes for current drug users, those who may use in the future, and even for those who will never, ever use the substances.

It is one thing to teach that heroin is bad and addictive. While opiates feel great, it can and does lead many to a life of constant withdrawal, obsession, and fatal overdoses. How many of us are taught in school of the true effects heroin has on the body and mind? How much science is devoted to understanding how drugs affect the brain and the biochemistry of your body?

Misinformation and lack of proper accessibility to the truths about drugs can be downright dangerous. If those who seek to try drugs realize they’ve been lied to, they have trouble understanding fact from fiction. If one thinks certain dangers are exaggerated, they’re less inclined to believe other dangers. If one doesn’t instantly become hooked on a substance, they may conclude their drug education was totally useless and that these substances aren’t at all addictive. Unfortunately, many of these dangers are actually quite true. Cocaine is not something one will instantly fatally overdose on the first time (probably), but it isn’t a harmless recreational substance, either.

With the stigma and illegal status of drugs, accessing proper education is suppressed and discouraged. While I generally support decriminalization of drugs, I believe accessibility and honesty is what’s most important, regardless of legal status. I believe withholding information on these substances does not decrease usage, and only serves to harm pretty much everyone.

With the rise of fentanyl (which is much, much more dangerous than any commonly-used drug), that education is more important than ever. Many people in Vancouver (and around the world) do not understand how easy it is for someone to overdose from fentanyl lacing, or that an addict’s usual dose would not be fatal if not for the presence of fentanyl. Many, particularly the most vulnerable users, do not even know what fentanyl really is or how undetectable it can be. Fentanyl is colourless, odourless, and it only takes a few specks to kill without treatment. Fentanyl is basically the made-up horrors of bad drug education becoming reality.

Telling our youth not to do drugs and giving vague descriptions of their dangers isn’t enough. We need to be clear and honest about the science and impact of addiction, and the true effects of narcotics on an individual.