Drug Literacy

By Manda Aufochs Gillespie

Today, I woke up and much of the day I spent thinking about how I was going to get my drug-of-choice packed up for my upcoming trip. How much do I need? What could I leave behind in order to fit my drug-of-choice into the one little bag that would last me a month? What would happen if I ran out? My drug of choice happens to be a particularly fine earl grey tea and why I like to think I am not addicted, when I think about going without the warmth and ritual of my morning cup, my heart starts to race and I snap at my children. There are few people I know that aren’t dependant on some sort of drug as part of their daily routine: caffeine, tobacco, marijuana, alcohol or the harder-to-get and less acceptable ones that are prescribed, gotten on the streets, or otherwise come by illicitly. I’ve noticed in my life, it’s often the people who once struggled with illicit drug use themselves that have the most nuanced understanding drug literacy and the varying relationships people have with psychoactive drugs.

Just Say No?

My drug education amounted to “Just say no!” and then lots of images of the brain on drugs—and a movie about people jumping out windows who were on drugs and doing other crazy things. While my memory of the details are blurry—which drugs, which crazy things?—the message is still clear: if you do drugs your brain will disintegrate, you will do awful things, and then you will die. 

Somehow I made it through all my years of University and through the drug rich 90s, through watching friends and family struggle with addiction, and through living in Vancouver on the Downtown Eastside (epicenter of drugs in Vancouver) during the fentanyl and opioid crisises, and my drug literacy didn’t get much more nuanced. 

Two Friends by Waferboard via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

The Meaning Of Drug Literacy

And now I have two children that are nearing their teen years and I realize that my drug education has not made me literate at all. Drug literacy can be defined as acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to successfully navigate the world in which we live, a world in which psycho active drugs play a regular part. 

Martin Metz, EMT and front-line parademic, helped the Cortes community begin their path toward drug literacy in the most recent Folk U Friday session. To start your own path to drug literacy he recommends the following resources: 

Top photo credit: Ralph is arrested for Jack’s murder, from the 1936 film Reefer Madness – Scanned from Cult Movies by Danny Peary via Wikipedia (Public Domain)

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