Intervention Without Proper Explanation

Why Freshman Health Class Should Change

Freshman year health class covers eclectic topics changing from mental health to drug use. Within every discussion, YouTube video, and documentary was a small intervention of why we shouldn’t become drug users without proper context of drug use and abuse as a whole. Drug use is a specifically prevalent topic in health class. We spent a week dedicated solely to learning from recovered users. However, the dialogue around drug use and abuse in this class is currently damaging and needs to change. 

After learning about drug use from an outside company, we spent a week watching a series as a class about a heroin addict which showcased how family members were impacted by his behavior. 

We were exposed to drug abuse in a variety of mediums, but there was a continual, unhealthy emphasis on blaming the user. Not once did we talk about structural violence or how profitable drug companies are. Instead, we shamed users and used people’s real stories as a means of scaring us out of any potential drug use. 

Being a Parker student is a privilege in many regards — especially when it comes to the support I receive through having counselors and trusted adults in the building I can go to for advising. Going to Parker also means that I have a place to be for seven hours a day with vast opportunities for extracurricular activities to further keep me engaged with the school and consume my time. Having a safe place to be with people who care about my well-being is a luxury and privilege that only a minority of students receive.

 I am lucky enough to not suffer from the structural violence which could potentially increase my risk of being a drug abuser. However, not nearly everyone has this privilege, and health classes need to teach that. 

Drug abuse disorders are political issues because of how policies inform drug companies and social institutions. Teaching students to not abuse drugs because doing so will strain family relationships or cause someone to deter from future goals is not sufficient and is a harmful message. Health class must teach about the biosocial aspects which are forcing people into becoming abusers. 

Class time should be spent understanding the development of drug laws in the US and how they’ve become heavily racialized, learning about the Fair Sentencing Act (which reduced the crack-to-powder sentencing ratio from 100:1 to 18:1), and learning about the implications of being born into poverty with an emphasis on informal workplaces and inabilities to network outside of one’s own neighborhood, among countless other social situations and traditionally neglected history lessons which expose more of the truth behind drug abuse. 

The current narrative about drug use in health class is that people simply choose to become abusers and have the choice to stop but don’t. This is far from the truth. Learning about the social structures that force people into these lifestyles and keep them hooked for corporations’ profit is necessary. 

In addition to not learning about any of the social aspects leading to addiction, I was not once taught about products like Narcan and Suboxone, further perpetuating the stigma around drug use and overdose. Because you probably weren’t taught this in school, here is a quick rundown: Narcan is an opioid overdose reversal drug that is not always effective, but there isn’t harm in taking it in the event that somebody falsely declared an overdose. Suboxone is a medication used to wean people off of opioids and suppress the pain of withdrawal in the case that someone is suffering from opioid use disorder.  

The blame and shame around drug abuse needs to stop and be replaced with a curriculum in which drug abuse is taught through a biosocial lens. Many of the movies we watched depicted drug dealers as people standing on the corner of streets incognito style. I’d like to argue that the real drug dealers are people in white coats over-prescribing medication to create life-long users and spenders, increasing cash flow.