Educator Advocates Harm Reduction as Effective

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

A majority of adults age 18 through 20, and many persons age 17 and under, have at least occasionally consumed alcohol beverages. Therefore, there needs to be more than a “Just Say No” response, according to Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, who promotes harm reduction.

Dr. Rosenbaum earlier conducted federally funded research on a variety of substance use and abuse issues. However, she shifted to education after her daughter’s experience with the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, which relies heavily on fear tactics.

In 1998, Dr. Rosenbaum wrote a letter to her high school son, which was printed in the San Francisco Chronicle. In it, she urged him to “use common sense” and “most of all, be safe.” The response she got from parents was “this is exactly what I want to say to my child.” That led to the development of her “Safety First “ educational program.

Currently, Dr. Rosenbaum is working with the California Parent Teacher Association to get more information on harm reduction and being safe to more parents. However, she can’t get “Safety First” information into the public schools. The reason is simple: Federal funding prohibits any alcohol education program that doesn’t strictly promote total abstinence only.

Harm reduction refers to policies or programs that reduce the harm that can occur as a result of alcohol abuse. In addition to promoting abstinence, harm reduction typically involves teaching moderation, promoting the use of designated drivers, improving highway safety, reducing drunk driving, etc. Harm reduction promotes abstinence from alcoholic beverages as the safest choice, but recognizes that many individuals will not choose that option.

 

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