General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Drug Education: Implementing the New Curriculum for Teens

General Assembly 2006 Event 4086

Sponsor: Unitarian Universalists (UUs) for Drug Policy Reform

Speakers: Charles Thomas, President of UUs for Drug Policy Reform (UUDPR)

Prepared for by Jenni Gaffney and Mike McNaughton, Reporters; Jone Johnson Lewis, Editor.

At General Assembly 2003, a number of teens brainstormed together to find what they needed in drug education. They agreed that they would benefit most from a curriculum much like Our Whole Lives (OWL) containing accurate information about drug use, abuse and addiction so that they could reduce the harm done to themselves and others. Freedom and Responsibility (FAR) seeks to meet this need.

The session plans for FAR were developed in 2003-04 with a group of eleven teenagers at the River Road Unitarian church of Bethesda, MD. In 2004-05 the sessions were field tested with 15 teens in the First UU Church of Rochester, MN, and later in Tucson, AZ, Ann Arbor MI, and many more.

The curriculum is made up of the following one and a half hour sessions:

  • Reasons, Risks and Alternatives
  • Use, Abuse and Addiction
  • Mental Health and Consciousness
  • Mindfulness and Meditation
  • Overview of Drugs
  • Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana
  • Psychedelics and Club Drugs
  • Uppers: Caffeine to Cocaine
  • Downers: Xanax to Heroin
  • Herbs to Phamaceuticals
  • Situations and Circumstances
  • Making Choices: Values and Goals
  • Treatment Options
  • Laws and Policy

FAR is very similar to OWL in several ways. FAR facilitators need to be aware of and honest about their own biases in order to keep them in check. FAR also utilizes a question box in each session to ensure anonymity. In some churches the teens had private folders used for notes and handouts that were locked up after each session. Only the owner was allowed to see what was written inside.

FAR is undergoing some fine tuning to replace some lecture information with more interactive activities. We are looking into setting up an interactive email list for facilitators. In addition, the Church of the Younger Fellowship (CYF) will be working with Charles Thomas to make the curriculum available online for young adults who have never had the chance to benefit from this knowledge.

Jan Taddeo, Young Adult Religious Educator of River Road Church, wanted to impress on us that this curriculum is not meant to stop teens from ever using drugs. Nor is it meant to discover who has a drug problem and give them therapy. The course is about harm reduction: trying to reduce the harm done to teens and those around them when it comes to drug use, whether that means beginning to experiment later, using smaller amounts, using less often, or choosing softer instead of harder drugs.

A teacher of FAR, Spencer Thomas, shared that he really knew the messages were getting through when one student shared the following experience. His football coach was yelling at a player with an alcohol problem, threatening to kick him off the team if he didn't stop drinking immediately. The student intervened, informing his coach, "Sometimes people don't need yelling at, what they need is help."

If you are interested in using this curriculum in your congregation, contact Charles Thomas at to get started, or visit the UUs for Drug Policy Reform website.