May 18, 12:00 PM EDT

Harm Reduction for Parents & Teachers

Part of First of All

Hosted by Sasha Simon

Parents and teachers have a stark reality to face: accidental overdose is currently the leading cause of death under the age of 50 in the U.S. That means that an American teen is more likely to die of a drug-related cause than any other reason in his or her young life. 

Despite the good intentions of decades of Just Say No campaigns, we have not effectively curbed drug use or drug related deaths by embracing abstinence-based drug education. Nor have we adequately prepared adults to navigate the new and evolving landscape of drugs, including the advent and rise of vaping and fentanyl-laced drug supplies.

As the primary recipients and recyclers of abstinence-based messaging and stigma, parents and educators alike could use an updated outlook on drug education and drug use with an eye for keeping kids safe during childhood and beyond. 

In this episode, parents and teachers will have the opportunity to learn from other parents and teachers about the need for a fresh perspective and the benefits of learning a non-judgmental, harm reduction approach to drug use.

About Sasha Simon

Sasha Simon is the Safety First Program Manager for the Drug Policy Alliance, where she manages the development and evaluation of the U.S.'s first harm reduction-based drug education curriculum for 9th and 10th grade students. Simon has an extensive career working as a health educator at a variety of institutions, including Columbia University, City University of New York (CUNY), GHMC, and Health, Education & Research Occupations (HERO) High School, a 9-14 P-TECH school in the Bronx.  

An avid youth development specialist, Simon delivers youth-adult capacity building trainings to clinicians, parents, and youth-serving organizations to help increase their capacity for youth participation in organizational decision-making processes. Alongside a vast network of mentors of color, Simon volunteers her time supporting and removing financial barriers to higher learning for first-gen college students of color through the college application process.

About First of All

Most American millennials and Gen X-ers were students of abstinence-based drug education like D.A.R.E., which was, in the 80s and 90s, a pledge to a local police officer in 4th and 5th grade to never, ever do drugs. To not become one of “those people” in the commercials. 

Well, the results are in: we didn’t resist drugs, and accidental overdose is currently the leading cause of death under the age of 50 in the U.S., and stigmatizing and criminalizing approaches to drug education and drug use are largely to blame. We denied the reality and multifaceted reasons we use drugs, limiting our capacity to navigate an ever-evolving landscape of drug policy, drug development, and technological advances surrounding drug use and safety. 

While we have decades-long and failingly clung to ‘Just Say No’ prevention messaging and policies, information changes, science evolves and innovation disrupts. 

Hosted by Sasha Simon, Safety First Senior Program Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance, First of All aims to clear away all the junk science and stigma related to substance use, putting science, dignity and respect first. In this series, Simon brings key components of a harm reduction-approach to drug education to life online so viewers can discover innovative ways to learn about drugs that could save their lives or those of the people they love. 

Original Series

Support our work

We’re on a mission to change how the world perceives mental health.