By Sasha Simon,

How many years have we known that abstinence-based programs like D.A.R.E. fail to truly educate young people about drugs, and that we need a replacement?

The answer: too many. But happily, now there’s an alternative: DPA’s Safety First: Real Drug Education for Teens.

Safety First started out as a resource for parents to talk to their teens about drugs and has now evolved into a curriculum designed to be implemented in 9th and 10th grade high school health classes. It is based in the principles of harm reduction and consists of 14 interactive lessons covering how we define a ‘drug,’ how drugs work in the body, their effects, risks and benefits of five major drug classes, and the impact of drug policy on personal and community health.

Safety First is the culmination of almost 20 years of work in youth drug issues by DPA’s Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, as well as many other DPA staffers. I am proud to have joined that group by guiding Safety First in its first real-world pilot and evaluation last month at Bard High School Early College Manhattan. For the first time ever in a U.S. public school, students are receiving a science and harm reduction-based education about drugs.