Education, Not Scare Tactics

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Many people today entering south Florida detox were brought up in the era of the War On Drugs, of D.A.R.E., of ‘Just Say No’. Broward County drug rehabs are filled with people, old and young, familiar with these scare tactics, where the threat of the drug use was over emphasized, making it seem as if a single puff of a joint would be the beginning and end of the story; they would be unsaveable or immediately end up with brain damage and in prison overnight, not to mention the morality play on someone who would even think of trying a substance.

This story, however, is unrealistic and, for young people, fuels that rebelliousness that many teens and young adults inherently feel as they grow into their own person and out of the shadow of the authority figures that told them things they discover aren’t entirely true through their personal experiences and aren’t as black and white as portrayed. With the illustration of how D.A.R.E. paints drug use, one would think that the worst drug in the world to ever try is cannabis, but when a young person tries it and nothing serious happens, it creates a contradiction of experience and education, which also fosters distrust of those they are supposed to hold in high regard for guidance, breaking important bonds of trust.

Think about if you were told that everyone who tries to swim the first time immediately drowns, but one day, when you see people at a swimming pool, you decide to try it as well because no one else seems to be drowning. If you started learning to swim with this kind of ‘education’, even if well intentioned, you would start to disbelieve that drowning is even possible. You’d start to think maybe everything authorities say might be questionable or, even worse, a deliberate lie constructed to keep you from exploring the world.

Instead, educating young people and re-educating adults on how drugs and substance use disorders develop and how it’s not an instantaneous event might be more productive. In the swimming scenario, instead of telling a young one that all swimming leads to drowning, we tell them not to swim alone so that if an accident occurs which may lead to drowning. Someone is there to help them out, and swimming itself is not the cause of drowning.

In relation to drug use, instead of telling them fairy tales about how cops will just know they’re high on something no matter what and they’ll be in trouble, the education of how drugs actually affect the mind and body over time, even if addiction and prison time aren’t involved, can affect them, and that those effects largely cannot be reversed, at least not easily. Not only will it build trust with authority, but they’ll have a better, well rounded view of how substance abuse is not just a scary fairy tale like a movie, but has long lasting, real life consequences that build up over time and that the dangers aren’t simply possession, but the effects of the substances themselves.

If you or someone you know has found themselves in the grips of substance use disorder, it’s imperative to find professional treatment. Substance abuse treatment in Florida offered by places like First Step Behavioral Health is available by calling (866) 971-5531.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky, MSW, LCSW

Brittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is the Assistant Clinical Director at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.