Dear Mrs Jennex,
I am writing you today with a plea of assistance in having the drug awareness curriculum to be changed by the start of the school year in 2013. The current curriculum is outdated and not sufficient for today’s youth based on the alarming rate of drug use per the recent 2012 Nova Scotia student drug use survey. This needs to start on the grade 6 level and continue throughout high school. Every term the dangers of drug use should be addressed for all of the grade levels from grade 6-12. Harm reduction should not be the focus especially with regards to prescription drug use, these are highly addictive as well as a death sentence for some. Please help save our youth, without your pressure and assistance more of our children will die or become addicts.
Dear Mr. Adams:
Thank you for the taking the time to write to Honourable Ramona Jennex, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development, concerning the health education curriculum in relation to substance use as it pertains to prescription drugs. Minister Jennex has asked me to respond on her behalf.
As I am sure you are aware, the Nova Scotia Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, other government departments including the Department of Health and Wellness and the Department of Justice, provincial and national non-government organizations, and, indeed, the federal government are all concerned about the prevalence of prescription drug use among youth. Together, we are working diligently and efficiently toward a comprehensive approach that aims to protect youth from the risks associated with prescription drug abuse.
Schools, families, and communities share a responsibility to address the complexities that underlie the aspects of adolescent stage of development. Adolescence is defined by a growing need for independence that often carries with it the propensity toward risk. A new health education curriculum for grades Primary–9 has, in fact, been developed and introduced to schools across the province. This curriculum is currently in the process of implementation, which includes resource support and professional development that will address prescription drug use instruction and integration with many other protective factors that contribute to healthy decision-making, critical thinking, and other life skills that empower youth to protect themselves against health risks.
Best practice research and evidence, both in health education and drug education, tell us that “stand and deliver” knowledge transfer kinds of drug education models do not work with youth and that, in fact, this approach to substance use education can be harmful. Because of this research and evidence, we do not believe that grade 6 is the developmentally appropriate age to begin the conversation you suggest. I want to assure you, nonetheless, that the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development will be working with partners on the very best comprehensive approach, aimed at the school, family, and community level, to address the serious harms that can occur when youth use prescription drugs as a means to experiment with risk.
Implementation of our new health education curriculum is part of government’s comprehensive approach to address the health vulnerabilities of today’s school-aged children and youth. I appreciate your support for and valuing of health education in our schools.