Should the U.S. Refocus Drug Addiction as a Public Health Issue for the Department of Education

capitol buildingDrug addiction affects every American to a greater or lesser degree. Its cost in human suffering, broken lives, and destroyed dreams is well-known to the addict, and those who love him or her. Its economic cost to individuals and organizations at all levels of society is well documented. Despite any ongoing efforts to successfully curtail the use of potentially highly addictive illicit and pharmaceutical drugs capable of causing death, drug use is on the rise.

U.S. Government Agencies

According to one recent article discussing “failed” drug education in the U.S., it was noted that at one point in time, the White House suggested a public health approach to drug-use.

The article also proposes that addressing drugs and drug-use as a public health issue requires a change in focus from the Department of Justice to the Department of Education.

To understand such a suggested change in focus in an effort to curtail drug use and mitigate the risk, damage and harm caused, it is necessary to understand the distinctly different purposes and activities of a number of different U.S. government agencies:

  • The U.S. Department of Education has as its mission, in part, “to promote student achievement” and foster educational excellence.
  • In contrast, the U. Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency has as part of its mission “to recommend and support non-enforcement programs” targeting the reduction of availability of illicit drugs (controlled substances) on both domestic and international markets.
  • The United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is the government’s principal agency for providing essential human services and protecting the health of Americans.
  • One of the HHS major operating components is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is designated as the nation’s health protection agency.

If we were to address drug-addiction more from an educational standpoint, it is necessary to understand what education and its purpose truly is.

Education and Drug Education

The essence of education is a person’s experience of learning, or being taught. Much of a person’s education occurs outside the confines of a schoolroom. Much of it occurs from a myriad of sources other than schoolteachers and educators.

According to one renowned philosopher and humanitarian, education gives the person the accumulated data of a long span of culture, and it can—just like personal experience—be used to solve many of a person’s problems.

Education begins at home, with parents and family members as the primary source of learning. As a child’s world expands, education comes from pre-school and children in the neighborhood. Next follows the many years spent in formal education, with its many life-shaping facets of influence.

In society today, electronic sources of education heavily influence children and youth, their literacy and values, and the life-choices made. Television spews volumes of information and advertising that is questionable, at best. The internet is a source of nearly limitless information, both good and bad, factual and false, and all the shades of gray between.

Drug Education

On the subject of drug education, we need to look at what we are teaching our children and youth by example, and how we deal with life challenges and problems.

Our society currently teaches our educators, teachers, parents and school-age children and youth that study and learning difficulties are “solved” with a pill. Aderall and Ritalin, routinely prescribed for ADHD, are classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as Schedule II, along with cocaine and Dexedrine. Schedule II drugs have a high potential for abuse, and the stage has been set for future chemical dependency.

Many adults today use prescription painkillers and psychotropic medications. Many adults drink to excess. Voters have legalized pot in a number of U.S states. That is education by example.

Such conduct and practices are an education regarding drugs—but not drug prevention education.

Drug prevention education may very well be a public health issue for the Department of Education. We are in desperate need of effective, factual and evidence-based drug prevention education that teaches real-world prevention solutions to real-world drug, drug abuse and addction problems.

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