Drug-Related Deaths In School Children: Is Legalisation The Answer?

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With the mad nightlife newfound freedom and that comes with university, it’s no surprise that drug use is prominent in uni culture. Most shockingly, it is also becoming more common in school years. 

Huge concern has been sparked after the drug-related deaths of at least twelve young people since 2017, all under the age of sixteen. Easily influenced, they are often targeted by dealers over social media, with parents shocked over how easily illegal drugs can be obtained. 

With these new statistics coming to light, it’s clear that action must be taken to prevent this from happening again. But unfortunately, this is easier said than done. There are definite attempts to educate young people about the effects and dangers of drug usage, but clearly, this needs to be taken more seriously. We were all taught to ‘say no to drugs’ in school, but maybe the tactic of delivering this message should be changed. Arguably, it may improve the outcome to use more scaremongering techniques towards potential users. Many of us will have experienced the scaremongering attached to learning to drive in college, with talks from professional speakers and family members of car accident victims that reduce us to tears. Maybe if drugs were spoken about and taught in a more harrowing way, young people would have a better idea of the dangers rather than just that ‘drugs are bad’.

However, this is not guaranteed to have a huge effect. Think about all the attempts to prevent smoking. The effects of smoking; the grim ingredients in cigarettes, and the disturbing images of shrivelled, black lungs have been drilled into us since school days. Yet, a few years later, we seem to have forgotten all of it. Despite the scarring pictures, the extortionate price tags, and warning signs on the packets literally spelling out how the contents of the pack will literally kill us, addicted or not, we still choose to smoke. 

It could be argued that education and campaigning on drugs should be extended to universities as well as just schools, though this is likely to be ineffective. With newfound freedom and adulthood, it would be safe to assume that trying to tell university students how to behave would have little effect. 

With this in mind, it may be unlikely that we can reduce drug usage, but maybe the government could make it safer. With this in mind, legalisation could potentially be a step forward. While this does pose clear risks, it also allows for regulation. Take, for example, drug testing at festivals. Rather than risking their lives for fear of getting into trouble, people can get their drugs tested to make sure they are safe. While this doesn’t prevent drug use, and may encourage it more than anything, it can prevent serious harm. 

With this attitude of regulation and safety in mind, we could change the content of the education given to young people. Rather than being taught how to say no to drugs, students could be taught what to do if they or someone they know is in danger. Ultimately, the main issue with drug usage is overdosing, so if people are taught how to prevent that and how to get help, drug-related deaths are likely to decrease.

Drug use in young people is a big issue to tackle, and most strategies pose setbacks and uncertainty. Although it would be difficult to stop drug use altogether, regulation could pose some huge advantages. 

Katy Henderson.

Image: Frank.