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Published: May 19, 2011

Drug abuse education

Any of a variety of programs designed to teach students of all ages about the dangers of drug abuse. Although drug abuse education in the most general sense can include therapy for abusers, in the field of education it is limited to that area of the HEALTH EDUCATION curriculum dealing with the physical, intellectual, psychological, social and emotional consequences of drug abuse. In elementary and secondary schools, drug abuse education is integrated into standard health education courses, with the depth of discussion varying according to age. Drug education, like SEX EDUCATION, however, remains a center of controversy in many communities that fear that such instruction may stimulate rather than discourage experimentation. Moreover, there is no consensus among educators on the most effective approaches to drug education. Some programs such as DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) try to frighten children with graphic videotapes and presentations by police officers and former addicts. Founded in the early 1980s, DARE presentations became part of school curricula in 10,000 public school districts in the United States and in schools in 54 other nations. Many health experts and educators oppose DARE-type programs, which focus on the consequences of drug use—the criminal penalties and the physical effects. Drug abuse, say DARE opponents, is purely a health issue requiring a scientific, objective approach to educate children properly. Although there is no clear evidence that any specific program has helped curtail drug abuse, some educators believe any drug abuse education is better than none, and there is little question that student drug abuse has declined sharply from the peak reached in the late 1970s before drug education became a standard part of the health education curriculum.
The Drug Abuse Council lists seven essential goals for elementary and secondary school programs: to increase student knowledge about drugs; change student attitudes about consuming drugs; change the behavior of drug abusers; increase student participation in alternative activities; help students develop sets of personal values; improve student decision-making skills; and improve student self-esteem.
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