A 19-year-old University of Virginia student, Mary “Shelley” Goldsmith, died from an overdose of the popular club drug “Molly.” Now her parents are speaking out about the dangers of these drugs in hopes of bringing a new method of drug education, called “harm reduction,” to teens and young adults.
The Daily Mail reports that Shelley was a student at the University of Virginia and had received the top merit scholarship offered by the university. She was smart, likable, and musically-inclined according to her friends and family. Shelley’s parents, Rob and Dede Goldsmith, say that Shelley knew that drugs were “bad” but that responsible drug use was never something the parents ever dreamed of discussing with a child. However, in August of 2013, that all changed.
Shelley went to an electronic dance concert in Washington, D.C., and took “molly” a term used to describe MDMA or ecstasy. Shelley would die from a molly overdose that night after becoming increasingly hot and heading to the bar to get a drink of water. She would collapse and not wake up.
Following their daughter’s preventable death, the Goldsmith family has made it their mission to inform night clubs and music festivals about the importance of “harm reduction.” What is harm reduction? According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, the term encompasses a whole host of methods to meet drug users where they are.
“Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use to abstinence to meet drug users ‘where they’re at,’ addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve drug users reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.”
As you can see in the video above, harm reduction changes the way drug education is taught. Instead of focusing solely on abstinence teaching, harm reduction also educates individuals on safer methods of drug use and managed use. The Goldsmiths feel their daughter could have benefited from this teaching and may still be alive today if she knew the warning signs of overdose and had better managed use techniques.
Dede says that if it can happen to Shelley, it can happen to anyone’s child.
“She is a good messenger. She was a great kid. She was smart, she was affable, she was musically-inclined, she was the whole package and it happened to her. If it can happen to her, it can happen to your kid.”
What do you think of the idea of harm reduction teachings to teens and young adults?