Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Complacent over young people and drugs? Or just not playing to a tabloid agenda?

Kathy Gyngell uses the Centre for Policy Studies blog to argue against what she sees as complacency in some of the commentary about the change of classification for cannabis (and drug use by young people more generally). She says:

As any ‘in touch’ parent of a teenager in central London knows regular cannabis using kids are moving to cocaine, ketamine and ecstasy by the time they are 16 or 17.  Many teenagers appear to be immune to drug dangers despite the endless compulsory personal health and social education classes that they are subjected to at school.  Nor has the government’s mixed message about drugs helped – namely their explicit policy statements about the non harmful nature of ‘recreational’ and casual drug use; no more helpful is their confused ‘informed choice’ approach to drugs education.

I’m not quite sure what context she’s using “endless” or “compulsory”, but she should certainly be aware that PSHE education is not yet statutory in England, let alone a 24/7 subject in school.

As you may remember Ms Gyngell was the chair of the group that came up with Addicted Britain and the addictions chapter of Breakthrough Britain for the Conservative Party a year or so back.  In the latter report she and her committee argued:

The education harm reduction message has not been one of abstention or indeed one of encouraging abstinence but of encouraging children to be safer than they might be. This is not ‘value free’. It is based on an ideology of freedom of choice applying to children which assumes that given the correct information children and adolescents are free individuals who can make further free (and sensible) behavioural choices. All the evidence suggests that many of them cannot.
[page 68]

Of course abstinence only education has had a bit of a knock in terms of the evidence base since that report was published, as has random testing (something else that Ms Gyngell’s group were keen to explore).

That said, I’m interested in whether there’s evidence that reducing the amount of information available to young people (or their ability to take choices) protects them from the harms that are associated with drugs; or whether providing the information in the context of a set of cultural values can enhance the impact of drug education.  

Any thoughts, or references, in the comments would be welcome.

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