Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Cocaine + Alcohol = Cocaethylene

Drink and Drug News take a look at the winners of the Frank awards, which has been trying to educate students in Nottingham about the dangers of using cocaine and alcohol together:

The campaign’s overall intention – alongside alerting people to the dangers of cocaethylene – was to deglamourise the drug for its target audience. ‘The reality is that you’re in some khazi, snorting cocaine, hiding from the bouncers, and it’s really not very glamourous. It’s a grubby drug and its impact on the user and the people around them can be catastrophic. This isn’t about telling people what they should and shouldn’t be doing – it’s about offering information and provoking debate, producing information to help change attitudes and behaviour.

‘Young people experiment with drugs, whether it’s a rite of passage or whatever,’’ he continues. ‘People have to make their minds up – at no point in our leaflets does it say “you shouldn’t take cocaine”. The fact is that drugs meet people’s needs – this campaign is trying to understand what’s in it for the user as well. If the first time people took cocaine it made them feel terrible no one would take it, so it’s very much about trying to strike a balance and hopefully this has. Certainly the feedback is that it did.’

Read the whole story here and download the resources from here.

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Filed under: alcohol, cocaine, university

Cocaine study that got up the nose of the US

Ben Goldacre, of Bad Science fame, writes about drugs this week and in discussing the World Health Organisation’s study of global cocaine use (which he says was never published) he quotes the following passage about fear based messages about the drug:

Despite a broad range of educational and prevention approaches, most programmes do not prevent myths, but perpetuate stereotypes and misinform the general public. Such programmes rely on sensationalized, exaggerated statements about cocaine which misinform about patterns of use, stigmatize users, and destroy the educator’s credibility. This has given most education campaigns a naïve image and has reduced confidence in the quality and accuracy of these campaigns.

Read more here.

Filed under: cocaine, scare tactics

Frank on YouTube

Filed under: cocaine, Frank,

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

Government launches cocaine campaign

The Home Office have press released a new campaign on cocaineFrank - Cocaine leaflet:

A £1 million FRANK campaign targeted at 15-18 year olds, a commitment to the Colombian government’s Shared Responsibility campaign and a new leaflet illustrating the dangers of the drug are being announced to enhance the drive to tackle cocaine use.

The FRANK campaign will make young people aware of the health and social harms of using cocaine and aims to deglamourise the drug’s celebrity image by revealing its ugly consequences. The campaign will use a range of media including online advertising to reach young people with the real facts about the drug.

The Frank leaflet is here. As you would expect it covers the reasons people take the drug and the harms it causes. Here’s what they say about relationships:

Most people take cocaine with their mates. Because it makes you talk a lot and helps you to stay out late, cocaine can seem like a sociable drug. And taking drugs together can feel like a bonding experience – especially if there’s four of you crammed in a toilet cubicle.

But cocaine can change friendships so that they become all about cocaine. You might talk a lot but is anyone listening to you? Or are they too busy trying to talk over you? And then there’s the paranoia that your girlfriend or boyfriend is flirting with someone else, or that all your mates are talking about you, or that someone is holding out and not sharing their cocaine with you. Some times it might feel like it is cocaine that is controlling your group of friends.

Of course “most people” don’t take cocaine at all, but the leaflet doesn’t have a single normative message as far as I can see. It’s not as if it would have been difficult to find one. The BCS, for example, says that 94% of their target group haven’t used cocaine in the last year.

However, they do point out that the harms aren’t restricted to this country:

Money spent on cocaine finances:

  • landmines
  • terrorism
  • kidnapping

Drug mules

Some cocaine is brought into the UK by drug couriers or mules. These people – usually women with dependent children – are poor, desperate and may not understand the consequences of what they are doing. The cocaine is put in condoms, which they swallow. If the condoms burst, they can die. They are also at risk of violence and intimidation by dealers as well as legal action if they are caught.

Cocaine production affects the environment:

  • tropical rain forest is destroyed so that farmers can grow cocaine. It is estimated that Colombia has lost over three million acres of tropical rainforest because of cocaine production.
  • illegal processing factories dump polluting chemicals that affect the local environment. It is reported that in Columbia every year, 20 million litres of acetone, 13 million litres of gasoline and 81 thousand litres of sulphuric acid are used to make coca leaves into cocaine. These chemicals are then thrown away, untreated, in rivers and streams.
  • One gram of cocaine correspondes to the destruction of 4sq metres of Colombian forest.

Update – The BBC and Reuters have covered the launch.

Filed under: cocaine, Frank, ,

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,

DrugScope street drug trends survey 2007: two tier cocaine market puts drug in reach of more users

DrugScope’s street drug trends survey for this year has been published and the focus is cocaine:

The two-tier cocaine market sees dealers selling cheaper, more heavily cut cocaine to students, pub users and those on low incomes at around £30/gram, while targeting more affluent consumers with a higher quality drug at around £50/gram. Worryingly, some drug charities have confirmed that the age of clients coming forward with problems relating to cocaine use is dropping. Overall, official statistics show that cocaine use is relatively stable, but feedback from the survey indicates that use among young people may be growing.

In some areas young people are buying cheap, low-grade cocaine to mix with other drugs. Many police forces and drug services are seeing an increase in polydrug use with more young people using cocaine as well as alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy.

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, says:

“We do not wish to exaggerate the extent of cocaine use but our survey does reveal some worrying trends. The use among young people, the drug’s affordability and the combination with alcohol and other drugs is clearly a concern.”

The story has been picked up by The Metro, which makes it their lead story in today’s paper.  The BBC also have it here.

Filed under: cocaine

‘Health disaster’ fear as pupils turn to cocaine

The Telegraph has an interview with Professor John Henry in the light of the publication of the Statistics on Drug Misuse report:

Drug dealers are targeting schools and a ‘worrying number’ of youngsters are trying cocaine, an expert warned yesterday.

As a result, the country is heading for a health care disaster, Prof John Henry, the UK’s leading expert on illicit drug use, told The Daily Telegraph. He predicted a dramatic rise in heart attacks, strokes and neurological problems among young people. He spoke as a new report said that almost one in five secondary school pupils in England, some as young as 11, took illegal drugs last year.

Here’s what the survey tells us about cocaine and young people.

Pupils aged 11 to 15:

  • 90% of 11 to 15 year olds had heard of cocaine, heroin and cannabis. Among those aged 11, 86% had heard of cocaine.
  • 18% of 15 year olds have ever been offered cocaine and ecstasy.
  • 18% believe it would be easy to access cocaine or crack.
  • 4% thought it was OK to try cocaine.
  • The numbers taking cocaine or crack have gone down from last year (2.4% down from 2.9%).

Young People:

  • Amongst young adults – 16 to 24 year olds – cocaine use has remained stable since 2000.
  • Cocaine is the second commonly used illegal drug with 5.9% of young adults reporting to have used it in the year prior to interview. Higher numbers of those over 20 years old (7.6%) say they have used cocaine than those between 16 and 19 (3.9%).
  • 22.3% of young people who use cocaine powder reported using the drug at least once a month. This group has been rising – from 1.9% of the overall population of young people in 200o to 3% in 2005/6.
  • Young men (7.6%) are more likely to take cocaine than young women (4.3%).
  • Those who had (0r are) excluded or truant from school are more likely to have taken cocaine (c11% vs c4%).
  • There were 231 young people (under 18) who were receiving treatment for cocaine use in 2004/05.

To add to this context the Information Centre’s report says “2.4% of adults reporting having used cocaine (either cocaine powder or crack cocaine) in the year prior to interview.”

The Telegraph don’t provide us with the evidence to support Professor Henry’s claim that schools are being targeted. However, it’s a reminder that schools need to have robust drug policies in place and to develop relationships with their local police using the ACPO guidance, Joining Forces, as a basis for that partnership.

That guidance has this to say about gathering and sharing intelligence about drug dealing in and around schools:

In the National Intelligence Model, intelligence-gathering is a separate and equally important policing activity alongside prevention and enforcement. A school community is a community like any other and it is, on occasions, quite proper to gather intelligence within it, provided this is done with the support and co-operation of the school. An intelligence-led approach includes the sharing of information between schools and police and will enable communities to be safer places to live, work and learn.

From time to time schools may request information from the police about local drug issues. In addition, it may be appropriate, as part of the National Intelligence Model tasking process, proactively to share information about emerging threats and local drug problems with schools.

They also point out that, “Matters relating to intelligence gathering or intelligence sharing should be addressed to the headteacher or deputy headteacher, or college principal, and copied to a governor with responsibility for drug issues.”

Filed under: cocaine, drug dealing, police

Britain tops European cocaine list

There is considerable media interest in a report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction which says the United Kingdom (by which they mean England and Wales) has the highest cocaine use in Europe.

Headlines include:

  • 3% of all Europeans have tried cocaine
  • 1% of all Europeans have tried cocaine in the last year
  • Between 1 and 11.6% of young adults (15-34) have tried cocaine
  • The highest levels of recent use of cocaine amongst young adults is in the UK and Spain (4%)
  • The UK is the only EU country with a significant fall in the use of amphetamines (but use remains high)
  • Cannabis remains the most used illegal drug across Europe, with 20% of all Europeans having tried it and 6% having used it in the last year
  • An estimated 3 million young adults are daily (or almost daily) cannabis users

DrugScope has a summary of the findings, an edited version of a presentation of the findings is available for download here.

The full report can be obtained here.

Filed under: cocaine

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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