ID: HR23-970
Presenting author: Kasparas Vasiliauskas

Presenting author biography:

Kaspar is a HR, LGBTQ+ and climate activist, scientist and educator from Lithuania. Their background is in chemistry and Earth sciences (BA, MSci, University of Cambridge). Kaspar has 10y in teaching and 2y working on education systems. Their work focuses on drug education, drug checking, and peer involvement.

Start low, go slow: Envisioning the future of drug education from the young age

Kasparas Vasiliauskas, Ruby Lawlor

Issue for discussion

Today most young people still don't get adequate, if any, drug-related education. Often their first formal introduction to drugs happens at school and almost exclusively in the form of ideological fear mongering - convincing children and teenagers that if they dare touch an illicit substance, they will inevitably become addicted, permanently damage their body and suffer social stigma.
Many young people encounter psychoactive substances while still in education, and they realize they've been lied to - addiction doesn't necessarily develop overnight, and experimentation might have a positive impact. This can damage their trust in the education system. The prohibitionist approach just isn't effective and has negative repercussions. Drug education is in many ways similar to sex-education - cases of prohibitionist rhetoric at schools show higher rates of teenage pregnancies, STIs and poor or non-existent harm reduction practices. Scare tactics and prevention strategies are dated and need to give way to evidence based education about drugs and the introduction of full spectrum harm reduction practices. Similarly to already existing sex-education programmes, this could start as early as at kindergarten - start low (young), go slow.

Your experience of the issue

As an educator in natural sciences, I regularly face questions on substances from children. The biggest problem in tackling such topics is surrounding stigma. Main ethical concerns involve a conflict between HR philosophy backed by science and social conventions.

What you hope the audience will contribute

We intend to hold a dialogue space that discusses the tools - some already created by our partners and collaborators - on child and youth education on drugs, such as the pilot Youth RISE Academy project, SSDP's Just Say Know programme, Manual on How to Communicate with Young People About Drugs. Educators in our team intend to facilitate experts in this field to review, summarize and evaluate current education practices, innovations and address potential obstacles.