Drug education ensures safety


What is more important — enforcing a zero-tolerance drug policy or ensuring the safety of those who decide to ingest illicit substances regardless of their illegality? That is the question raised by a flier released by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, which is not the average piece of anti-drug propaganda. Rather than staunchly denounce the use of Ecstasy, the flier offers tips for how to safely consume the drug. Many have criticized these fliers, and department officials have responded that they will be "immediately revising" the flier as a result, but perhaps the LA County Department of Public Health had its heart in the right place. There is nothing wrong with trying to save lives under any circumstances.

People are going to take drugs like Ecstasy no matter what the law says about them. While some people may heed the calls of the various anti-drug campaigns in existence, many others will disregard them. No one would contest that illicit drug use is simply a fact of life. Why not provide users with safety tips?

For example, look at the failings of abstinence-only sex education. Rather than instruct teenagers on how to safely engage in sexual conduct, these programs admonish them to stay away from it all together. The results of such programs? Students educated this way have less information about or access to contraception so that, when they do engage in sexual intercourse, and many of them will, their chances of pregnancy or contracting an STD are significantly higher. Students who are educated about contraception, on the other hand, tend to have safer sex.

The same idea applies to the LA County Department of Public Health's fliers. Armed with the knowledge of how to safely take Ecstasy, far fewer people will run the chance of dying as a result of taking the drug. Regardless of whether or not a person decides to take Ecstasy, they are still a human being — and every human being has the right to live. A government agency should help those human beings live as safely as possible.

County Supervisor Michael Antonovich said, "Counseling young people on the use of the illegal drug Ecstasy is stupid and contrary to Los Angeles County's zero-tolerance policy on drugs." The only thing more stupid than counseling the youth on how to safely take Ecstasy is leaving them in the dark — thus increasing the chances that they'll make a fatal mistake. Sure, people should be abstaining from Ecstasy altogether, but let's not forget that we are talking about human beings here — a species that has never been renowned for its ability to always make the right decision.


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