My mother never taught me about drugs. The first I’d ever heard of them was when the D.A.R.E. program came to my elementary school to put on a skit. All that I remember about the skit was that they spent a lot of time repeating the phrase “say no to drugs” and showing kids being offered drugs.
But they never explained what drugs were. The drug dealer in their skit was an older kid with a baggie full of what looked like mixed cereal. Trix and Lucky Charms, as far as I could tell. I had the audacity to ask “what is drugs?” No one wanted to explain that to a grade school kid, so they said something like “drugs are bad, and if anyone tries to get you to use them, just say NO!” Yes, all right, I’ll say no, but how can I say no if I don’t know that you’re talking about?
The D.A.R.E. program might be nearly as effective as abstinence-only sex education. For years I had a lingering suspicion of mixed cereals in plastic baggies. Because there was something mystical about them that adults didn’t want to explain to me. I also covertly scoured the shelves of this old store called “Drug Barn” hoping to catch a glimpse of these forbidden creatures in real life. By the time I was old enough to know what they were, I was quite curious. I have D.A.R.E. to thank for planting that seed and making me wonder. I’m sure many of us do.