Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Youth rarely heed expert warnings on drug risks, study finds

A bit off our usual patch, but as it points to research that may be of interest here I though I’d bring your attention to the Irish Examiner which has a story about how young people don’t take notice of experts:

YOUNG people are “rarely” influenced by warnings from experts about the dangers of drugs, research has indicated.

Instead, young people determine the risk associated with taking drugs from their personal experiences.

As the British government are in the process of pulling together a group of experts to look at what the evidence says about alcohol – and then diseminating that evidence to parents, teachers and young people – this Irish research may be of some use in how they plan the dissemination of that evidence.

The full research paper can be downloaded from here.  But here’s what I take to be the key paragraph:

As young people’s stories suggest, drug-related risk was anticipated, ignored, avoided, or rejected from specific, experiential positions, but rarely on the basis of ‘expert’ warnings about the dangers of illicit substances. Young people drew upon lay discourses and reasoning, a process of ‘private reflexivity’ (Wynne 1996) located firmly within the realms of their ongoing social and personal experience. Put differently, young people, including drug users and non-users, ‘script’ risk as they gain experience in the world (Mayock 2004); they learn by doing, and script elaborations are precisely what such learning is about. Correspondingly, they alter, modify, and innovate scripts to accommodate new drugs, novel use settings, and emergent events, as well as changing perceptions of safety and harm. These essentially communicative scripts are played out in social interaction; they are prone to modification and may be subsequently overturned in response to new or emerging life circumstances and events.


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