Martin Barnes writing on the Druglink Blog has this to say about the ACMD report Pathways to Problems:
Last year the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) emphasised that preventative measures to tackle hazardous tobacco, alcohol and drug use among young people needed to be much broader than drug education. Prevention is about tackling child poverty, supporting families, the importance of stable family relationships, all ‘upstream’ issues highlighted by the Unicef report.
It’s a good point, and one that DrugScope are well placed to make as it is their document, The Right Responses, which outlines all the things that schools (as one institution) can do to help enhance the protective factors and reduce the risk factors that some children and young people have around drug misuse.
The Drug Education Forum has summarised this on our website – here – and there is now further research published by the Home Office which has examined the literature on risk and protective factors. One of the papers has this to say about risks associated with education, school performance and school management:
Several studies reported significant relationships (e.g. Hallfors et al., 2002 [2.268]; Johnson et al., 1995 [19.119]; Stronski et al., 2000 [36.161]; Ljubotina et al., 2004 [46.206]) while one did not (Morgan et al., 1999 [3.357]). The latter study was unusual in that it examined country level associations between school performance and levels of drug use. Case and Haines (2003, [5.331]) found that “exposure to risk factors within the main domains of the young person’s life (family, school, neighbourhood, psychological) significantly increases the likelihood that they will ever become involved in drug use (‘ever takers’)”. They also reported that bullying, poor school performance and low school commitment were all associated with level of drug use. Study 36.161 (Stronski et al., 2000) reported that school performance was associated with last month cannabis use, while study 2.268 (Hallfors et al., 2002) reported that school performance was associated with ever cannabis use. This study, which used meta-analytic techniques, concluded that truancy had a higher predictive value for drug use. Reinherz et al. (2000 [12.72]) found that teacher-rated attention problems or ADHD at age nine were predictive of later drug use.
Or in simpler language:
There is considerable evidence linking school pupils’ behaviour (e.g. truancy, drop out, poor attendance) to drug use.
In another paper published by the Home Office has this to say about developing resiliance:
The findings from Stage 2 of the research show that young people’s resilience is facilitated by a range of factors, some of which are related to their character and some to the context in which they are based. There appear to be three processes running concurrently for young people when they are resilient: they operationalise a schema in which they view drug use as harmful to themselves and therefore a behaviour in which they do not want to engage (schema theory), alongside which they have developed a set of resilience-focused goals (selfregulation theory). They then draw on a strong sense of self-efficacy so that they are able to put this decision not to use into practice (self-efficacy theory). Based on these findings, a number of policy implications are suggested to encourage, promote and facilitate young people’s resilience.
To develop and maintain an effective resilience to drugs schema: a strategy of providing accurate and credible information, using relevant appropriate language could help provide young people with the facts necessary to begin developing a resilience to drug use collection of beliefs and attitudes. The experiences of young people included in this study could be used to inform future advertising campaigns and awareness-raising resources such as FRANK. The case studies presented in the report, motivations for not using drugs and the range of strategies suggested for refusing them could all be used in this context and in school drugs education.
To develop and maintain appropriate approach goals: appropriate agencies, including schools, could help young people develop realistic and achievable goals, for example in terms of what career they would like to pursue in the future. Particular challenges may be faced where young people are based in a social context characterised by high levels of unemployment and social deprivation.
To develop and maintain strong self-efficacy: the skills required to be able to maintain a decision not to use drugs in practice, including general social skills such as assertiveness, appear to be used by young people in a wide range of contexts. This would suggest that these skills could be developed and promoted in a variety of settings including both drug education and citizenship school-based classes.
Programmes that promote discussion and tolerance of diversity within peer groups that are based on a ‘normative’ approach to education should be encouraged. These programmes could facilitate resilience by creating an environment where young people feel confident in expressing their personal choice about whether or not to use drugs and in which peer pressure to use would be minimised.
In terms of resiliance this is one of the reasons I had the research on how children and young people learn brought to my attention.
Filed under: ACMD, drug prevention, educational theory, risk and protective factors