Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Heroin is hard work. You don’t drift into it

Martin Samuel writing in the Times argues that blaming celebrities for young people’s drug use doesn’t hold water:

It is a myth, the impressionability of teenagers where the deadliest drugs are concerned. Nobody becomes a casual heroin user. It is too much like hard work. It is the most determined act you will attempt all year.

I’m reminded that in 2006 a reporter from the same paper rang me up to see if I’d link what they saw as the rise in cocaine use by young people to a celebrity.  I declined, but the story was written, with Professor Furedi making the connection, and the Guardian’s Bad Science column taking the reporting to task a few days later.

Harry Shaperio writing on the DrugLink blog earlier this year pointed out that the links between what celebrities do and the way that young people behave is probably not central to drug misuse by that age group.  But as an earlier paper by the National Collaberating Centre for Drug Prevention, The Effects of Drug use by Celebrities upon Young People’s Drug Use and Perceptions of Use, points out the amount of research in this area means we’re working somewhat in the dark:

It must not be assumed however that the increased visibility of celebrity drug use goes hand in hand with influencing young peoples activities and opinion formation; such statements must be supported by good quality research, applicable to UK audiences.  Reception of media images is increasingly documented within theory as an active process in which meaning is constructed in the context of peoples’ own knowledge and experiences. There is a need, within both policy and research to objectively expand our understanding of this process in the context of celebrity behaviour, and the effect this has on the lives of young people. Little is known as to the relative effects of young peoples’ reception of positive and negative depictions of drug use within the media. UK based research is required to ascertain whether media depictions of drug use, help affirm or abate effective drug prevention strategies, taking on board the contemporary developments in media and viewing outlined within this paper.

Where we are on more solid ground is the description of risk and protective factors that influence the likelihood of young people developing long term problems with drugs, and liking particular celebrities hasn’t yet been added to that list.

Filed under: celebrity

The end of the bender? Stars embrace sobriety

The Independent wonder whether there’s a change of lifestyles amongst celebrities and highlights a number who don’t drink, or don’t do so in public. They ask:

So are all these stars at the vanguard of a new post-alcohol era? Despite the widespread perception of a binge drinking culture in Britain, official statistics seem to suggest this is wide of the mark. In a recent study, the Institute of Alcohol Studies found that a growing number of Britons are abstaining from drink.

The Office for National Statistics agrees. Its most recent survey found the percentage of non-drinking women increased from 41 to 44 per cent between 1998 and 2006. For men, the numbers increased from 25 per cent in 1998 to 29 per cent. And believe it or not, the trend is borne out among underage drinkers. The number of boys aged between 11 and 15 who had never drunk alcohol rose from 38 to 46 per cent. With girls, the figures for non drinkers increased from 42 to 46 per cent.

Filed under: alcohol, celebrity

Celebrities are third biggest influence for girls

Children & Young People Now

Celebrities came third in the Girlguiding UK poll, behind friends and family, as the biggest influence on girls and young women. The internet was voted the fourth biggest influence.

The woman with the greatest influence on girls was named as Victoria Beckham by 35 per cent of the 600 respondents aged between 10 and 25. X Factor winner Leona Lewis came second with 32 per cent of the vote.

More controversial celebrities Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse polled 29 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.

Filed under: celebrity

Cocaine overdose hospital admissions rise 400 per cent in just four years

The Mail pick up on figures that appear in Druglink about hospital admissions as a result of cocaine abuse. Almost all of the contributors to the piece are sure that celebrities are acting as recruiting sergeants for the drug. Here’s Mary Brett:

‘We were supposed to see cocaine use being targeted as a class A drug, instead it’s going through the roof.

‘Young people think it’s cool to use cocaine, that it’s a safe recreational drug but it can have dramatic effects on the body and cause psychosis.

‘We need more health campaigns and some way of getting the message through that celebrities are not role models, they can afford the rehab unlike some of those who get addicted.’

I didn’t see any mention of price as a factor in people’s use of the drug. Going back a few months Harry Shapiro made the case against seeing celebs as the cause of any cocaine culture there may be:

Yet still the charge remains that the pied-pipers of pop are leading our young people by the nose leaving a trail of death and devastation in their wake. So how do young respond? A group from Mentor UK were asked this very question by MPs at last week’s meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Substance Misuse Group – as were listeners to the youth-oriented radio station 1Xtra. And what did say? ‘We’re not that stupid’ – and it is symptomatic of our patronising attitudes towards young people that we should think them so gullible. In fact, fans of pop stars with drug problems generally feel sorry for them and wish they could get their lives back together again.

And just in case you need a reminder according to the BCS 94% of British young people (16 – 24) haven’t taken cocaine in the last year, and amongst the immediately younger group (11 – 15) that rises to 98.4%. Even in terms of attitudes it’s important to remember that 97% of pupils don’t think it’s OK to try taking cocaine “to see what it’s like”.

This isn’t to say there isn’t a problem, just looking at the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction report tells us that comparatively we do have high use of the drug, but “through the roof” seems less than accurate.

Filed under: celebrity, cocaine, hospital

Bloody Pete art attack fury

Daily Star have a story about an art exhibition which features works by Pete Doherty:

Drugs charities and the art world are disgusted he has been given the sick show while in London’s Wormwood Scrubs.

George Ruston, from drug education charity Hope UK, said: “Anything that glamorises drug use does not help and, for some young people, may encourage them to use drugs.”

The same quote is used by the website Digital Spy in their coverage.

Filed under: celebrity, Drug Education Forum Members, ,

The Lesson

The Education Guardian takes a look at how teachers can approach the issue how celebrity culture affects young people. Here are two of the exercises they suggest is:

Commission pupils to compose a piece of writing arguing either for or against the ATL’s motion “the cult of celebrity is perverting children’s aspirations”. Increasingly, celebrities find themselves being blamed for the ills of society at large, from anorexia to binge drinking, from drug abuse to the decline of organised religion.

Ask groups of pupils to investigate the different charges being levelled at celebrities

before setting up a mock court and staging a roleplay in which celebrities such as Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, Victoria Beckham, P Diddy and 50 Cent stand trial.

Filed under: celebrity,

If you’re going to use celebrities in drug awareness campaigns

Maybe these are the ones to go for.

Filed under: celebrity,

Druglink blog: Red carpet or red herring?

On the Druglink blog Harry Shapiro thinks about the role of celebrity in terms of cocaine use amongst young people:

the charge remains that the pied-pipers of pop are leading our young people by the nose leaving a trail of death and devastation in their wake. So how do young respond? A group from Mentor UK were asked this very question by MPs at last week’s meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Substance Misuse Group – as were listeners to the youth-oriented radio station 1Xtra. And what did say? ‘We’re not that stupid’ – and it is symptomatic of our patronising attitudes towards young people that we should think them so gullible. In fact, fans of pop stars with drug problems generally feel sorry for them and wish they could get their lives back together again.But what about the perennial charge that celebrities have a social responsibility to their fans? There are thousands of young people who dream of getting a record contract and making a career in music. They aspire to becoming entertainers, not role models. But for the very few who get there, they can quickly become entrapped by the media obsession with celebrity, snapped not only by paparazzi, but anybody these days with a camera in their mobile phone. The tabloids fall over themselves to get front-page candid shots. Who, you might ask, is doing the glamorising?

Filed under: celebrity, cocaine,

Ex-users in Drug Education

The Times says that Dwain Chambers is looking to try and prevent young people falling into the same traps he fell into:

The sprinter, making his second comeback to the Great Britain team after completing his drugs ban in 2005, said that he wants to keep running for his country and plans to set up an anti-doping campaign to teach children about the errors of his ways. “I want to start going into schools, use myself as an example and tell kids to not go down the road I took,” he said.

Elsewhere, the Evening Telegraph in Northamptonshire reports on a drama with ex-users:

FORMER heroin addicts and alcoholics are warning young people about the dangers of drink and drugs.

Actors from Teen Challenge, a national Christian organisation, performed hard-hitting musical The Journey at the Reachout Community Church in Havelock Street, Wellingborough, on Thursday night.

Although the musical dealt with the serious issue of substance abuse, children of all ages were invited to attend.

There’s a lot of interest in the effectiveness of ex-users as part of drug education programmes at the moment, so if you have thoughts on this – or evidence you can share – I’d be grateful to receive it.

At the moment guidance to schools says:

Involving ex-users in drug education should be considered very carefully. Without sensitive handling they may arouse interest or glamorise drug use or describe experiences which young people may find it hard to relate to. In some instances they may unwittingly imply that their own drug use represents a ‘safe limit’ that can be copied. If they are to be involved, this should be because they are skilled in facilitating pupil learning and not simply by virtue of their status as a former user.

There’s some interesting comments in a post I did back in November last year on the appropriateness of ex-users in drug education here.

And given I’d not come across them before I did some further reading on Teen Challenge:

Filed under: celebrity, drug education, , ,

UN on Celebrity Drug Users

A fair bit of reporting on the annual report from the International Narcotics Control Board which has taken celebrity drug taking as one of it’s themes.  When the Prime Minister spoke at the consultation event for the Children’s Plan this was a subject that he too raised as a concern

The Metro:

Celebrities who appear to escape justice for taking drugs are being blamed by the UN for turning more youngsters on to illegal substances.

Singers such as Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty were among those singled out by campaigners worried about the message they sent to their impressionable young fans.

Their seemingly lenient treatment by the courts was undermining faith in the criminal justice system, a United Nations report said.

The Cleveland Leader:

A report issued by the agency this week says that by allowing celebrities to get away with drug crimes, it has a damaging effect on impressionable youth and undermines faith in the justice system:

“There should not be any difference between a celebrity who is breaking the law and non-celebrities.

“Not only does it give the wrong messages to young people, who are often quite impressionable, but the wider public become cynical about the responses to drug offenders,” said Ghodse.

The agency has also been very critical of the British government’s failure to take a tough line on drugs in recent years. Just three years ago, it said that the Labour party was sending the wrong singles after downgrading cannabis from a class B drug to a class C drug, which essentially means that those caught with only small amounts are not likely to be arrested.

BBC (x2), The Independent, The Daily Mail, Reuters, The Guardian, Channel 4, CNN, The Age (Australia), The Daily Telegraph,

The Press Release from the INCB is here, it says:

The fact is that when a celebrity uses drugs, he or she breaks the law, states the report. Young people are quick to pick up on and react to perceived leniency in dealing with such offenders. This raises questions about the fairness of the justice system and could undermine wider social efforts at reducing the demand for drugs. The same is true for higher level drug offenders.

The Report notes the wide differences between countries and regions when it comes to tolerance towards drug-related offences and offenders. Penalties for similar offences may seem severe in some places, but lenient in others.

The report itself says this about the UK:

The Board welcomes the strong commitment of the Government to address the drug problem through comprehensive measures against drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. The Government will announce its new drug control strategy in early 2008. The Board notes that the Government puts major emphasis on the prevention of drug abuse and the provision of treatment for young drug abusers. The drug control policy of the United Kingdom includes harm reduction activities. The Board appreciates the commitment of the Government to ensuring that such activities are in line with the provisions of the international drug control treaties and that no facilities where drug abusers could abuse with impunity drugs acquired on the illicit market would be allowed to operate in the United Kingdom.

Recieving less notice is the story that is covered in Children and Young People Now where the government are putting money into supporting young role models:

The Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) unveiled a £6m young leaders scheme last week to turn young people into positive role models. The aim of the scheme is for young people to champion local and national issues and become positive role models for their communities.

Filed under: celebrity, International, , ,

About this blog

This blog tries to pick up relevant media and research stories about drug education. It mainly focuses on information in England as this is the geographical remit for the Drug Education Forum. We welcome comments that are on topic.

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