Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Just say no

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Megan McArdle questions the wisdom of the “just say no” approach to alcohol and drug education, and also doubts the possibilities for teaching our young people the virtues of moderation:

Let’s be honest: for many of us, our happiest college memories ended up face down in a toilet. But that’s neither here nor there. DARE’s job is to prevent drug addiction, not maximise the net amount of happiness in society. From what I know of the programme, it doesn’t actually do either very well, or in fact, at all. But I misdoubt it would be any better if it preached moderation.Kids binge drink because they are gigantic bundles of anxious energy, and drinking allows them to free their id from its neurotic chains for a while without social consequences. Well, I mean, there are social consequences, of course, but you can get away with setting cars on fire or sleeping with half the track team with surprisingly little social opprobrium. (…)

So colour me sceptical that we could prevent binge drinking if we could only teach 18 year olds to drink like 35 year olds.

I’m not so sure I agree with Megan on this one. I tend to think oo much emphasis is put on avoiding intoxicants. The emphasis rather should be on avoiding intoxication.

In other words, their message should be that getting drunk/stoned/high/intoxicated is very very bad, dangerous, etc., and that sobriety is very very good, positive, integral to financial and social success, etc.

But by banging the drum incessantly on a “stay away from this or that substance at all costs” message, they emphasize the wrong strategy.

I strongly suspect the number of successful, non-addicted people who have tried cannabis, or who enjoy a beer or a glass of wine now and then, vastly outnumbers the number of successful, non-addicted people who who have never tried intoxicants. It seems like becoming a member of the former group is a more realistic option than becoming a member of the latter, and is likely to be the basis of a more successful public health strategy.

I honestly think that many young people really never hear a sensible message about why it’s dangerous or foolhardy to get drunk or high. They do hear messages about abstaining from drugs and alcohol, but they’re likewise aware than most adults don’t follow this advice. So, when they, too, decide not to eschew trying these substances, they possess little in the way of awareness of the critical importance of moderation.


Written by Jasper

October 31, 2006 at 9:37 am

Posted in Health Care, Policy

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