This reading reflection is based on the “Illicit Substance Use Among Canadian Youth: Trends between 2002 and 2008” reading. I found this reading to be very interesting because it’s somewhat shocking to have raw data on substance abuse amongst teens in front of you and not begin to wonder how we as educators can play a role in curbing some of these numbers.
I think that this is quite a difficult topic to breech with students as many of them have preconceived notions of what your intentions are when you bring up the topic of drugs. From my own experience whenever this seems to come up in class students tend to assume that you intend to preach to them the negative aspects of drugs and tell them that if they smoke a joint or pop a pill they will be addicted for life so they should NEVER EVER try it. I don’t think that this is a realistic approach as it is one that many of us have gone through and we can testify as to its very limited success.
I agree that abstinence when it comes to matters of substance use is advisable however for many of the teens in front of us this is not something that they are likely to consider or adopt wholeheartedly. Many drugs in our culture have reached a cool status in society where artists and celebrities hint at their own uses of illegal substances in popular culture without much thought.
I think that in order to counter this we have to be open with our students about these substances. Our job is not to preach but to inform students so that they make the right choice. We cannot try to force the choice that we want them to make upon them. Youths make mistakes just as we do and by preaching to them about how illegal substances are bad I think we close the door on possible opportunities to educate and inform.
A particularly powerful lesson I observed around this topic revolved around the following short film that explores the story of a heroine addict and how he got into the drug. The class watched the film and then we got into a circle and had a discussion about substance abuse. Several older students spoke out and talked about their own experiences with drugs and although many of them reported enjoying these experiences initially all of them also expressed a desire to have never tried that first cigarette or first line.