Dutch Approach To Education: Just Lay Out Facts

Dutch Approach To Education: Just Lay Out Facts
Posted by FoM on July 30, 2001 at 07:15:57 PT
By Susan Taylor Martin, Times Senior Correspondent
Source: St. Petersburg Times 
Even most non-drug users know that heroin is usually injected while marijuana is almost always smoked. So when the "expert" from the United Nations Drug Control Program talked on CNN about "shooting up" marijuana, one group of viewers could hardly believe its ears. "I was sitting there with some young people who fell laughing off their couch," says Janhuib Blans of Jellinek, an organization involved in drug counseling and treatment. 
As head of Jellinek's prevention program, Blans knows it's hard getting kids to stay away from illegal drugs. It's even harder when they don't trust the adults conveying the anti-drug messages. "I tell teachers and social workers that if they make mistakes in terms of credibility, they're lost," Blans says. "We're constantly being tested -- if it turns out to be propaganda, we're dead." The Dutch are sensitive to charges that their drug policies encourage young people to try marijuana and other illegal drugs. The Netherlands isn't much different from the United States when it comes to efforts to keep kids off drugs. In school, children are taught about the dangers of drugs and alcohol; in the mass media, anti-drug campaigns are conducted. But there is a key difference between the U.S. and Dutch approaches to "drug education." The Dutch take the view that experimenting with illegal substances is a normal part of growing up. As a result, the Dutch say, kids should be given the most accurate information possible so they will know exactly what they're getting into. The Jellinek Center, for example, has a new campaign: "Want to use drugs? First read the instructions." At rave parties, outreach workers distribute pocket-size pamphlets that list the "positives" and "negatives" of various illegal drugs. On the positive side of using cocaine, Jellinek says: You might feel bright and talkative. It might give you self-confidence. You might have better sex. On the negative side: Your heart beats much harder and you breathe faster. You can get anxious. You might become impotent. Afterward, you might feel tired and have sleep disturbances. Kids helped write the pamphlets. "We interviewed them because the examples and words we use are very important if we want to get connected with them," Blans says. "It's different than 'Just say no,' as Nancy Reagan said smilingly, but we think it's a wise campaign." There are differences, too, between the U.S. and Dutch approaches to drug education in school. In the United States, the widely used DARE program -- Drug Abuse Resistance Education -- is taught by law enforcement officers. Blans questions how effective such programs are when approached purely from a law enforcement point of view: "Some kids definitely do not trust the police to give them trustworthy information on drugs unless it's about sentencing." In Dutch elementary classrooms, police are joined by health education specialists. The police explain the legal consequences of using drugs; the specialists talk about the medical aspects and healthy lifestyles. Drug use among Dutch youth isn't much out of line with that in other Western democracies, especially in the use of more harmful "hard" drugs. The United State and Australia also have higher percentages than the Dutch of 15- and 16-year olds who have used heroin, cocaine and amphetamines. Says G.H. van Brussel of Amsterdam's health department: "As long as you're lenient with experimentation, people tend to use their common sense." Coming Tuesday:Switzerland puts drug traffickers in prison -- then gives some of them heroin as part of a controversial program to treat opiate addictions.Complete Title: The Dutch Approach To Education: Just Lay Out All The FactsAmsterdam, Netherlands Source: St. Petersburg Times (FL)Author: Susan Taylor MartinPublished: July 30, 2001Copyright: 2001 St. Petersburg TimesContact: letters sptimes.comWebsite: Versus Them - St. Petersburg Times SeriesU.S. Policy Not Limited To Borders's Pot Feeds U.S. Habit
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Comment #2 posted by Doug on July 30, 2001 at 09:57:52 PT
While I'm not an expert on the use of heroin, I was taken aback by the first paragraph of this article on the benefits of telling the truth in education. Their sterotype is of "junkies" injecting heroin into their veins, but especially now that the street variety is stronger, many users snort or smoke it, and there is also a way of injecting heroin into the muscles. It's only because of illegality and high prices that injection, an extremely dangereous method of use, is popular.I also think it would have been appropriate in this article to indicate the number of lies in American drug "education"; most of them are a lot less obvious that the one about injecting marijuana.
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Comment #1 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on July 30, 2001 at 08:09:39 PT:
Simple, Direct, Wise Advice
Amerikan policy does not work, and exacerbates every facet of drug use. We need to use the types of approaches being pioneered with notable success. Give peace a chance!
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