Drug education is imperative
It is truly commendable that the new education secretary, Leonor Briones, has declared that one of the first undertakings of the Department of Education under her stewardship is to conduct a thorough review of the syllabus on drug education, with the plan to fortify it.
Briones is also considering making drug education a separate subject instead of just incorporating it into academic subjects, as is being done at present. Her laudable plan is in line with the policy of the new administration to give urgent attention to the drug menace.
Starting the teaching of drug literacy in Grade 4 is another noteworthy idea in the war against the traffic in illegal drugs, for drug syndicates today are targeting students as young as 10 years old. And this is true not only in urban centers but in remote rural areas as well.
Whatever happened to all those measures against drug abuse that the government has been vigorously advocating all these years? Despite the almost-daily drug raids and confiscation of hundreds of millions of pesos worth of illegal substances reported in the media, the country is seemingly helpless in stemming the tide of drug addiction. Even the much-touted barangay councils established years ago to address substance abuse have not managed to make a dent in the problem afflicting small towns and far-flung barangays. Why?
It cannot be denied that the drug problem in the Philippines has reached alarming proportions. One shudders to ponder on what Swedish political scientist Gunnar Myrdal once said: “One of the surest and fastest ways of destroying a nation’s morality and will is through the widespread dissemination of dangerous substances. For drug addiction corrodes not only the body but the very soul itself. It does not affect the victims alone for it has far-reaching effects on the whole community.”
The problem of drug abuse calls for many solutions. Experts say one way to solve the problem is to strike at its roots, pinpoint the source of drugs and destroy them, stop the smuggling of drugs through the air and sea ports and backdoor entries, and maintain tight control on the sale of dangerous and addicting substances.
These are great measures that may all be used to combat the drug menace. But the reality is that there is no single solution to the problem of drug addiction. Those who put forward brilliant suggestions and try these out find that their success is limited. Which is why the most effective weapon in thwarting this problem in our society is still prevention. And we can only achieve this by drug education—carried out, honest to goodness, on a national scale and included in the school curricula as a separate subject, as suggested by Education Secretary Briones, and started as early as Grade 4. For sure, this will do a great deal in eliminating the continuing demand for illicit substances.
A drug expert from the United States once pointed out: “To talk only of eliminating the illicit drug supply and its pushers is a shortsighted approach in curbing drug addiction. What we need is a long-range education program that will eventually eliminate the demand.”
Floriño A. Francisco, MD, is a pediatrician based in Cabanatuan City. He attended many drug forums in the United States while a Harvard fellow in adolescent medicine. He received the Topics (The Outstanding Physician in Community Service) award in 2010.
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