As part of its mandate to support drug education efforts and build upon youth consultations on cannabis legalization conducted in Canada, the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) has released a “toolkit” for realistic and evidence-based cannabis education targeted at youth.
Created for educators, as well as parents, the CSSDP said this new resource aims to support adults in having “informed and non-judgmental conversations with young people.”
“Given that cannabis remains the most popular illegal drug consumed by young people in Canada, as well as Canada’s pending legalization and regulation of cannabis, the development of new cannabis education for youth is of critical importance and a key aspect of developing young people’s health literacy.”
The CSSDP said Canada’s impending legalization of cannabis provides the perfect opportunity to take a revised approach when it comes to educating young people about the drug. They believe provinces should consider “pragmatic” education which is inclusive of both prevention and harm reduction to maximize effectiveness and protect all youth.
“Generally, the central purposes of drug education are to provide accurate information and awareness of resources, develop decision-making skills and health literacy, reduce risks of consumption, and support increasing an individual’s risk competency,” said the CSSDP. “This toolkit goes beyond these mandates.”
The group’s toolkit is broken into two parts.
The first section highlights 10 guiding principles for conducting cannabis education with young people. The section includes discussions on the concepts and values important to the delivery and implementation of cannabis education for youth.
Although outlined in the context of cannabis, these principles are also applicable to education on other substances. Emerging from a review of the available literature, ten guiding principles for cannabis education are offered. They include:
- Education grounded in evidence-based information
- Non-judgmental, open dialogue that uses interactive approaches
- Meaningful inclusion
- Delivery by a trained facilitator or peer
- Starting education earlier with age-appropriate content
- Supporting parents to have age appropriate and open conversations
- Inclusion of harm reduction
- Education tailored to the specific context
- Ongoing education available to youth
- Attention to overlapping issues of racism, social justice, and stigma
The second section focuses on content that merits inclusion in a comprehensive education curriculum, including evidence-based information about cannabis, its use and effects, as well as harm reduction strategies.
It’s also meant to help educators and parents familiarize themselves with cannabis and can be used as a resource for general and specific information about the substance.
Finally, it addresses many common claims made about youth cannabis use, such as the impacts on the developing brain, and provides educators with a background on legalization to help ground their approach.
“We believe this approach can allow for flexibility and provide insights into how youth cannabis education can be operationalized in practice, as well as further refined and improved.”