Should there be Opioid Education in Kindergarten?
Author: Justin Mckibben
The idea of preventing drug abuse through educating kids early about the dangers is nothing new. The truth is, education and providing concrete information is definitely one of the first lines of defense against addiction. Yet, programs like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, also known as DARE, have failed to be as successful as many hoped.
During the 80’s and 90’s, DARE expanded from a small local platform to a massive, and immensely expensive, national campaign against drugs in schools. DARE became so popular at one point it could be found in 75% of American schools. The problem is, it didn’t work and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Many may no longer have faith in this kind of tactic.
However, with the opioid epidemic as prominent as it is, some schools are talking to kids about opioids as early as kindergarten. So this begs the question; should there be opioid education in kindergarten?
States Jump into Opioid Education
A report from the Associated Press last month shows that some states have passed laws requiring schools to teach kids about the dangers of opioids. As one example:
Ohio on Opioid Education
This past week a state panel in Ohio recommended that students K-12 be taught about the dangers of drug abuse. The recommendation also suggested schools be required to report how they’re meeting such requirements for prevention education.
With the question of implementation, the official website of the Ohio Department of Education links to “Opioid Abuse Prevention for Elementary Schools,” which recommends:
“Instruction should include differences among foods, poisons, medicines and drugs; personal responsibility for one’s actions; and rules regarding who provides, distributes, accesses and monitors medication in the home and community.”
Ohio already requires schools to include:
- Prescription opioid abuse prevention in health education
- Teaching the dangers of using drugs
- Dangers of alcohol
- Dangers of tobacco
But implementation varies because no specific curriculum is mandated statewide. Committee members are now calling for more consistency. This panel has recommended:
- Schools provide age-appropriate, evidence-based drug education for all grades
- The state start requiring schools to report back about substance abuse education efforts
- Schools incorporate substance-abuse education in subjects other than health
- Increase partnerships with law enforcement and community coalitions on prevention efforts
- Involve families and peer leaders
The panel believes the schools should also combine these efforts with extended standards for social and emotional learning, as well as before- and after-school support programs.
New Jersey Governor on Opioid Education
In January, New Jersey Governor Christie declared opioid abuse a public health crisis. Christie is now pushing for a new, specific curriculum in every school on opioid education. In his statements he has said,
“The message will be simple and direct and start in kindergarten. The medicine in Mom and Dad’s medicine cabinet is not safe for you to use just because a doctor gave it to them.”
Christie’s petition for stronger opioid education is part of a larger executive order, which includes prescription limits for patients.
Other State Actions for Opioid Education
This is not the first time that early opioid education has been up for discussion. Last summer there were reports on a bill considered in New Hampshire that would make drug education in all grades mandatory, starting as early as kindergarten.
In Pennsylvania, William Kerr, a school superintendent, has stated in an interview,
“We do believe that the earlier the conversations start between parents and children the better, and so we will also be exploring at the elementary level.”
All over the country parents and school boards are starting up conversations about how to properly prepare the children in their community for the risks ahead. Many education programs against opioids are still developing, but the hope in all states is that something can be done to curb the rising rates of drug abuse, especially among young people.
Is Kindergarten too Early?
While to some people the idea of education their kids should be a no-brainer, others might scoff at the idea of talking to their children about drugs at such an early stage. One parent may feel kindergarten is too early to worry about opioid education and prevention, but others might believe it would be a useful strategy to plant the seed early. Some schools have already worked with teaching young children what to do in the event of a loved one overdosing. Others may still believe this is crossing a line a bit too soon.
We want to know what YOU think. Is kindergarten too early to be trying to give opioid education to kids? Is it possible it could give them the wrong idea and backfire like many think DARE did? Or is this one way we might be able to get a head start on the fight against drugs in the future?
Opioid education and other ways of providing information and prevention resources to all people could help change the landscape of the fight against addiction and overdose death. If you want to learn ways to talk to your child about addiction or you are concerned for yourself or a loved one who you think might be struggling with substance abuse or drug addiction, please call us toll-free now.
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