Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens, Drugs and Drug Education, a booklet written by Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum and published by the Lindesmith Center, was released at the October 29, 1999 conference, "Just Say Know: New Directions in Drug Education," in San Francisco.
Rosenbaum, a sociologist and director of the Lindesmith Center-West, is a widely published expert on drug abuse. She is also the mother of a teen-aged son, and wrote Safety First for other parents as well as teachers and administrators.
The 20-page pamphlet analyzes the current status of drug education and makes recommendations about how it could be improved. It includes an open letter Rosenbaum wrote to her son about drugs, published last year in the San Francisco Chronicle. Rosenbaum finds conventional school-based drug education programs to be well-meaning but fundamentally flawed. By insisting on total abstinence, for example, they fail to teach relevant information about staying safe around drugs.
"At the same time we stress abstinence, we should also provide a fallback strategy for risk reduction," she writes. Rosenbaum concludes that drug education programs lose credibility by mischaracterizing marijuana's dangers, leading some teens to discount adults' warnings about drugs completely and to put themselves at risk from more dangerous drugs such as heroin.
Her "safety first" approach would focus on preventing the harm caused by drug use. "Reality-based drug education will equip students with information they trust, the basis for making responsible decisions," says Rosenbaum.
Publication of Safety First coincided with the first international conference on innovative drug education approaches, "Just Say Know: New Directions in Drug Education," October 29 in San Francisco. The conference was co-sponsored by the Lindesmith Center and The San Francisco Medical Society. The free booklet is available through The Alliance West
and on the Web