Opinion: The kids are alright… but only when we empower them

published on May 18, 2022 by Guy Felicella in Vancouver Is Awesome

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing speaking engagements at schools across the Lower Mainland. It’s one of the best things about my job: being able to connect with kids and talk with them about drugs.

What I’ve learned over the years from speaking to hundreds of teens is that what they want – and what they need – are honest conversations about drugs. Their friends are experimenting with drugs, maybe their parents are using drugs, and they’re seeing in the news every day the devastating and terrifying overdose crisis. Doing anything but telling them the truth about drugs would be pointless at best, deadly at worst.

And yet so often what they’re having is the opposite of those conversations. Instead, the messaging they hear about drugs is enforcing substance use stigma, passing on shame to the younger generation. They’re told that drug use equals addiction when the truth is that not all people who use substances develop a substance use disorder or any issue at all.

How we talk about drugs and drug use plays a huge role in why people avoid reaching out. The language we use around drug use and the issues that motivate drug use means that young people are left to cope alone and in isolation…

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