Explicit drug-use brochures yanked from high school wellness expo after pushback

A harm reduction non-profit group is on the defensive after brochures it supplied to a high school wellness expo caused some jaws to drop.

Handouts with titles like “How to Prepare Your Crack Pipe” and “Safer Crystal Meth Smoking” were available to students at Medicine Hat High School until the group, SafeLink Alberta, was asked to pull them at the expo last Tuesday.

“About half an hour into the event, we were informed that parents had called and had some concerns, and so those materials were immediately removed … about methamphetamine and cocaine use,” Megan Williamson told the Calgary Eyeopener in a Monday interview.

Williamson is programs director at SafeLink Alberta. She says the brochures, from a reputable national organization, are about harm reduction.

“We do this for prevention and health promotion. No part of this is trying to encourage substance use in youth.”

Student didn’t know how to use drugs, until now

A father understands the good that was intended, but wonders if the pamphlets go too far.

“My daughter actually sent me a screenshot of one of the pictures that was floating around of the pamphlets,” Cesar Ponce told CBC News in a phone interview.

“She was quite shocked to see what was in there. She had no idea how to even use these drugs, but she does now.”

Ponce thinks the information might be more appropriate in a different setting.

“In the end, they are trying to do something that’s right by the kids, and I understand that. But I think these pamphlets are more geared to experienced users.”

‘Simply outrageous’

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith wasn’t on board.

“This is simply outrageous,” she tweeted Saturday.

“There is no such thing as safe meth or crack use. We will be reviewing funding agreements with the organization who felt it was appropriate to teach Medicine Hat teenagers how to use illicit and deadly drugs.”

The school board also objected.

“The graphic and questionable resources displayed this year both shocked and angered school administration, the event planners, system administration and many in our community,” Supt. Mark Davidson of the Medicine Hat Public School Division told CBC News in an emailed statement Saturday.

“From now on, all resources to be presented or displayed will require prior approval, a step that, until this incident, had not been seen as necessary.”

Meanwhile, SafeLink’s Williamson says the evidence points in a different direction.

“Our sources include the voices of people with lived experience, people who started using drugs as a youth, as well as public health data and peer-reviewed literature,” she said.

“They all tell us that education does not lead to initiation, meaning learning about things does not lead people to do it. We can also make a comparison to sexual health education. What often doesn’t work is abstinence and fear-based approaches.”

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