The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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U drug education program is missing the point

By Aaron Shaddy

Flipping through the Student Services Building’s supposedly educational pamphlets on drug and alcohol will lead one to some absurd and even scary conclusions. Advice for alcohol is diverse, ranging from the practical8212;drink water; to the cautionary8212;don’t accept open containers from people you don’t know; to the ludicrous8212;instead of drinking, host a sleep-over party.

To be fair, some of this advice was written for and by high school students, which would exculpate the U from spending money on this advice8212;if not for the fact that it was written for and by high school students.

Marijuana advice is narrower in its approach because, as a consequence of its illegal status, virtually no realistic or down-to-earth language can be found. With a scientific sterility, one brochure offers pithy observations: “marijuana changes the way the brain works,” “marijuana slows down the time it takes to respond to things,” and, my favorite, “marijuana makes people very hungry.” It outlines the health risks, harping on lung damage, attacks of paranoia, and premature impotence8212;and you thought Mountain Dew was bad. To send the point home, one of the pamphlets’ covers depicts a cross-eyed zombie, doobie in hand, utterly incapable of coping with the terrifying effects of whatever hell has unfolded before him. The general feeling one gets from reading the U’s fast-and-easy advice is that no one knows what is the proper thing to say. It is inadequate at the very least.

Only an idiot pretends drugs do no harm. Inhaled smoke or excessive drinking will take its toll on the body. But the discourse around mind-altering substances begins and ends with the assumption that, because they are harmful, no one who knew better would do them. No wonder the United States has such dismal success with drug abuse. We assume from the get-go that doing drugs is the same as nailing your head to the floor. The crazies must be saved from themselves.

Some 40 percent of the country over the age of 12 has consumed marijuana at one point or other, a fact offered by the aforementioned pamphlet, which has no discernible goal except to bombard you with statistics in a bizarre attempt to blend reality with ideology. Of course, unless 40 percent of the country is afflicted with a peculiar form of self-loathing only sated by the breathing of carcinogens, there must be another explanation for drug use. It’s rather obvious: People enjoy it.

Some have suggested that the legalization of drugs will encourage drug use, but there is a difference between accepting that people do drugs8212;yes, that includes alcohol8212;for pleasure, and actively encouraging drugs. Perhaps drug and alcohol education at the U should emphasize the same goals that a good sex education course would have: If someone is going to do it anyway, they might as well know what they’re in for.

[email protected]

Kevin Merriman

Aaron Shaddy

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