A viral approach to drug education
Sure, some drugs are bad. But the way we talk about them is far worse. And by talking, it’s safe to say we’ve mostly been tight-lipped on the issue altogether. Years of burying our heads in the sand have amplified the stigma surrounding all forms of drug use, not to mention disseminating misinformation. Simultaneously, there has been an unprecedented rise in drug use in many countries, costing governments billions of dollars annually. And, with the black cloud of the opioid crisis looming over the population at home and abroad, governments and laypeople alike are seeking solutions to stop and reverse the alarming situation.
Since 2016, the hosts of Drugslab, an educational YouTube channel, have been taking illegal drugs and inviting us to watch what happens next. Each week, one of the three hosts consumes a different drug—everything from cocaine to MDA, ayahuasca to Xanax—in order to instruct their audience on the safest way to take the drug, the right dosage and the associated risks. They also offer plenty of helpful dos and don’ts, as well as, stressing the importance of a safe environment and the presence of a trip sitter. But there’s a catch: the Netherlands’ government funds Drugslab in an effort to educate on dangerous drug habits. Designed to break down the taboo associated with drug use, Drugslab (and the Dutch government) do not turn a blind eye. Instead, the channel acts as a preventative measure, trying to limit the amount of accidental overdoses and serious addictions. Drugslab’s message is clear: do drugs if you please, but do so cautiously and know the associated risks.
Each week, one of the three hosts consumes a different drug—everything from cocaine to MDA, ayahuasca to Xanax—in order to instruct their audience on the safest way to take the drug, the right dosage and the associated risks.
The Netherlands’ government is the first of its kind to put into place this novel type of drugs education program but it is not without its critics. Many question whether the videos are worsening the problem rather than fixing it by encouraging experimentation. Others debate whether it’s a Band-Aid solution that ignores the larger societal problems.
The Netherlands has for years been far more tolerant of drug use than the rest of the globe. The capital, Amsterdam is known for its coffeeshops, where you can legally buy recreational cannabis. The country allows the personal use of “soft” drugs like marijuana in order to dissuade the population from using harder drugs like opioids. And, in 1988, the Dutch government started a heroin distribution program with the goal of minimizing the number of opioid deaths and assisting addicts with treatment by providing them with heroin instead of criminalizing their addiction. Since then, the number of deaths related to opioid overdose has stabilized.
So, this begs the question, should other countries follow the Netherlands’ lead? Have the Dutch found the solution to better drug policy and education? With the opioid epidemic happening concurrently with the legalization and widespread acceptance of cannabis in places like Canada and many of the states in the U.S., how we talk about drugs needs to be more nuanced than ever. Our approach to drug education must be without stigma and free from unrealistic targets. The War on Drugs’ “Just Say No” campaign was a foredestined failure. Raising its voice in a silent void, it’s no wonder that Drugslab would strike one as provocative and shocking. But with the stakes tethering between life and death, candid discussions about drugs are critical before it’s too late. And with upwards of 54 million views, Drugslab is setting a precedent as a quick, modern and wide-reaching method to do just that.
Drugslab YouTube Channel