In the last few years, I have had the opportunity to attend some seminars intended to raise awareness against drug abuse. In all of these seminars, the target audience were mainly teenagers and young adults. While these campaigns are necessary to show how harmful drugs can be, I could not help but be disappointed in some of the panelists.
Firstly, these seminars tend to focus on the preaching more than the education. I have noticed some speakers reiterate the claim that all drugs are equally bad, but this is a misconception. Yes, drugs are bad and you shouldn't do them, but drugs encompass several categories and have different effects on the user. For example, depressants slow down brain activity, stimulants can lead to paranoia and so on. Speaking of effects, some drugs cause significant damage over prolonged abuse while others do so in a shorter period of time. Hence, the claim that all drugs are equally dangerous is nothing but a myth. Unfortunately, none of the seminars I have attended elaborated on the types of drugs and their effects.
In one seminar in particular, an attendee asked the host a well-informed question about the medicinal benefits of cannabis. While research has shown that limited and prescribed doses of cannabis can be used to treat a range of ailments, the host (who claimed to be some sort of a specialist) refuted these claims without further explanation. Acknowledging the medicinal benefits of the supervised use of certain drugs does not equal to advocating drug addiction. It may well lead to better understanding of the events that often lead to abuse.
I have also noticed that panelists tend to over-emphasise the role of peer pressure behind drug addiction, especially when it comes to the youth. Perhaps in most cases peer pressure is the main reason why a person goes down this troublesome path, but it is not the only one. Social circumstances, availability, legality, living in a toxic household or environment, attempt to self-medicate, pre-existing conditions – all of these factors can lead someone to substance abuse. I personally know someone who had been isolated and turned to drugs because of undiagnosed depression. These seminars, sadly, do not explore these topics.
There is also the issue of the target demographic. Most drug awareness campaigns I have come across deal with young people. However, addiction does not discriminate; anyone can succumb to this disease at any stage in life, whether voluntarily or by accident. For instance, among those who've lost their lives in the opioid crisis in the US, the numbers are lowest among people aged under 24. There should be more campaigns that appeal to all ages and walks of life, because nobody is immune to the risk of addiction.
I hope future drug awareness campaigns will focus more on educating the masses, because a diverse range of factual information on the nature of drugs is very important for society to be able to fight drug abuse. After all, without the whole picture, one cannot really grasp the magnitude of the problem that is drug abuse.