Drug education takes a philosophical route: UBC postdoctoral fellow aims to open dialogue with youth about drug use

May 1, 2019

Congress 2019 guest blog from Mitacs

How can today’s young people be educated about the perils of drug use beyond scaring the heck out of them? How can we help them explore their questions about drugs and develop their capacity to survive in a society where people use drugs?

Mahboubeh Asgari, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education, hopes to address these questions during her two-year Mitacs Elevate fellowship with ARC Programs, a community agency based in Kelowna, BC, and the Centre for Addictions Research of BC (CARBC).

Mahboubeh believes traditional education programs—which try to scare or shame youth into abstinence—have not been effective. “Traditional drug education has tended to address a perceived deficit in knowledge. The assumption has been that if children learn the risks involved in drug use, they will tend to avoid use,” says Mahboubeh.

Working under the academic supervision of UBC professor Barbara Weber, Mahboubeh’s research is exploring how a philosophical inquiry approach to drug education could promote health and reduce harm associated with substance use.

Learn more about the Elevate program here

“When it comes to drug education, children have questions such as ‘why do people use drugs?’ or ‘what is addiction?’ Using a stimulus such as storybooks, video clips, and songs, philosophical inquiry involves facilitating an open dialogue about drugs where these types of questions can be explored in an open space,” explains Mahboubeh. “Our aim is to promote drug literacy — the skills and knowledge children and youth need to survive and thrive in a world where drug use is common.”

Mahboubeh will work with ARC Programs and CARBC to bring her findings to schools and the community. Her research fellowship will help develop materials and lesson plans for teachers so they can have meaningful discussions with children and youth about drugs. 

Mahboubeh says her Elevate research is allowing her passion for inquiry and reflection to have a bigger meaning. “Using philosophical inquiry as a pedagogical approach for drug education will empower children and youth to think critically, creatively, and caringly.” Together, Mahboubeh, Professor Weber, UBC, ARC Programs, CARBC, and Mitacs will give teachers and community workers the framework to help change the face and meaning of drug education.

Read more inspiring stories at mitacs.ca/impact

About Mitacs

Mitacs delivers research and training programs to students, postdocs, and faculty in all disciplines. We help build partnerships that support research and innovation in Canada and around the world. Visit the Mitacs booth in the Congress Expo Event Space to find out more.