Apr 20, 12:00 PM EDT

How We Cope

Part of First of All

Hosted by Sasha Simon

We’ve discovered and created a myriad of remedies for the ills we experience over the course of human life, but are we utilizing the best evidence, treatment and policies that help individuals and communities heal and thrive?

Even drugs that aren’t legal for recreational use have coping benefits -- we’ve long known that psychedelics are an effective treatment for PTSD, and managed use of ketamine and cannabis can help with depression. 

Yet drug consumption often leads to criminalization, and the increasing practice of criminalizing drug consumption coupled with a decrease in access to mental health resources has left us with a deep and problematic irony in the U.S. -- the criminal justice system is currently our leading mental health service provider. 

So are the criminal penalties that we attach to drug use fair? Are our treatment and rehabilitative services as robust and effective as they could be? And how does our sense of compassion vary depending on the way a person copes?

In this episode, we’ll explore policies that make coping and healing easier and effective, specifically harm reduction-based approaches such as safe consumption sites and medication-assisted therapy (MAT).

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

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