Just two months after Mac Miller's fatal overdose, the LA County Coroner confirmed that his death was a result of mixed drug toxicity (fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol), calling the overdose an "accident."
While it's still fair to call this loss a tragic (and far too common) result of an ongoing battle with addiction, the headline sheds light on another truth: we desperately need better drug education in this country.
Most schools in the United States offer some kind of curriculum on drug education, typically limited to a very brief unit in health class and almost exclusively based on abstinence-only logic.
One of the most widely recognized abstinence-based programs that nearly all young adults can recall an experience with is the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program. We've all seen the shirts, often worn ironically more than anything else nowadays. This irony is well-deserved: upon review, the program has been deemed ineffective at decreasing drug abuse.
Through a large-scale study done in 2009, data revealed that teens enrolled in the program were just as likely to use drugs as were those who received no intervention. Regardless, the D.A.R.E. program has been put in place in 75% of U.S. school districts and 43 countries.
This bare minimum initiative is right about where drug education stops for most young adults.
What we see time and time again is the fatality of this misinformation. And it makes sense — if children aren't learning something in school, and it's a topic that's still too taboo for most parents to want to cover in their homes, how are they supposed to navigate the very real dangers of life beyond classroom walls? How are we preparing these children once they realize that "just say no" simply isn't realistic?
Unlike calculus or Shakespeare, drug education is one area that will continue to follow children once they graduate and beyond. It's an area that impacts every single young person, despite their background, their past, or their future. But it's also the area we ignore the most and pretend doesn't need to be discussed.
With the right education, individuals can look at a cocktail of fentanyl, cocaine, and alcohol and know exactly what the results will be without the term "accident" attached to it. With the right education, a friend can have Narcan on hand and know when and how to use it in the case of an overdose. With the right education, we can stop losing 26-year-olds and we can stop labeling them "accidents."