We urge young people to stay clear of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, but we know that many of them will experiment with substance use no matter what the adults in their lives say or do. Zero tolerance policies and drug testing in schools are unrealistic, ineffective, and even harmful approaches to student drug use. As parents, educators and advocates, we must acknowledge the reality of teen drug use and provide our young people with credible information and resources about the risks and consequences of substance use. Only through honest drug education can we empower young people to make informed and responsible decisions.
We also need to teach them how to identify and handle problems with alcohol and other drugs and how to get help and support, if and when they occur. The Drug Policy Alliance supports reality-based drug education that treats young people with respect and acknowledges that some level of teen drug use is an inevitable, if not optimal, reality. We are also working to end invasive drug testing and punitive responses to student drug use that rob young people of educational and enrichment opportunities.