Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Drugnet Europe – Issue 66

The EMCDDA have a new issue of their newsletter available for download.

In amongst a range of articles they’ve summaraised the findings of the last ESPAD survey of school pupils (you can see the summary we did of it here).

The summary points out:

an average 61 % of school students surveyed in 2007 had consumed alcohol in the past month. And 43 % reported ‘heavy episodic drinking’ (five drinks or more per occasion) in the past 30 days.

They say that:

29 % of those surveyed had smoked cigarettes in the past month. The overall trend in last-month cigarette smoking in the participating countries is one of a decrease or stabilisation.

And they remind us that:

Lifetime cannabis use was reported by 19 % of the students and last month use by an average 7 %.

Filed under: europe

Binge Drinking in Childhood and Adolescence – Germany

Via the SHEU, and while Germany is very much outside of our geographical remit, I thought this might be a useful comparison to the stories we often see about the numbers of young people who end up in hospitals in this country as a result of alcohol.

According to this story, and this paper:

the number of adolescents admitted to hospital for alcohol poisoning [in Germany] has more than doubled, increasing from 9500 in 2007 to more than 23 000 in 2007. About 3800 of these patients were between 10 and 15 years old.

The last (roughly comparable) figures I can find suggest that there were 8,000 young people in the same position in England, although more recent figures have gone on to include those who end up in hospital as a result of accidents as well as because of alcohol poisoning.

Readers may recall that the last time we covered hospital admissions for alcohol related conditions we were able to see that the biggest rises in the numbers needing admission to hospital were amongst the 17 to 25 age group.

Looking at the maps I made following the ESPAD survey German young people aren’t getting as drunk as young people in the UK.



Although it looks like slightly more of them may be drinking.

alcohol use

Filed under: alcohol, europe, hospital

Child wellbeing and child poverty

The Child Poverty Action Group have produced a report about the relative position of the UK in terms of children’s wellbeing.

One of the domains they look at is behaviour and risk:

This domain covers violence, child deaths (mostly accident related) and risky behaviour (including early sexual intercourse, smoking, drinking and drug use). Sweden is the best performer here, Lithuania the worst. The UK is in the middle of the table. The Swedes do well on all aspects of the measure, but particularly so in having a lower level of violence or violent behaviour. Lithuanians do badly on all of the components. The UK scores relatively badly on risky behaviour, but actually has lower than average violence rates and child mortality.

Using Many Eyes here’s what the data looks like.


Update: – Connor Ryan, former special advisor to David Blunkett and Tony Blair, gives some context to how the domains in this report are put together and weighed.  On the behaviour and risk domain he says:

The three components here are ‘violence and violent behaviour’ (fighting or experiencing bullying), child deaths and risky behaviour (early intercourse, smoking, drugs, drunkenness). Surprisingly, perhaps, the UK does a bit better on this list, being brought down by youthful drunkenness, but having a relatively low number of child deaths.

Filed under: europe, risk and protective factors

Media Reaction to European School Survey

The BBC lead saying that UK young people are among worst for drink.  They quote Professor Martin Plant saying:

“There is a clear scientific consensus that alcohol education and mass media campaigns have a very poor track record in influencing drinking habits.”

Meanwhile, as part of their School Report, a young reporter has been doing her own survey:

Thirty per cent say they don’t drink, 5% considered themselves to be “addicted” to drink and 15% of the participants drank for “popularity”.

Many teenagers obviously think that is it “cool” to drink just so that they can get in with “The Popular Crowd”.

The Times also mention Professor Plant and say:

Scientists have renewed calls for a minimum price for alcoholic drinks after a study found that British teenagers are still among the heaviest drinkers in Europe.

The Guardian also focus on the issue of alcohol, and include a quote from Don Shenker, Chief Executive of Alcohol Concern, who says:

Not only are UK children getting drunk more often than most of their European peers, they’re drinking larger amounts when they do. These figures show that the widespread practice of binge drinking in the UK has now filtered down to school-age children.

The Telegraph follow the pack and report:

More than one in four British teens said that they had binged at least three times in the past month, the survey found.

Britain also came third in the number of teenagers who admitted drinking over the previous month, 33 per cent, behind only Denmark and the Isle of Man.

Asked what the consequences of drinking were, British  teenagers were the only ones to rate it overall as a positive experience.

Filed under: europe, media

The State of the Drugs Problem in Europe 2008

europeHere’s some of what the latest report from the EMCDDA has to say about drug use in Europe.

Universal Prevention

Of particular interest to this blog is what the report has to say about universal prevention. The report argues that there appears to be a shift in what policy makers want school based drug education to achieve:

In 2007, developing life skills was the most frequently reported objective of prevention activities (12 out of 28 reporting countries), whereas in 2004, half of the countries (13/26) reported raising awareness and providing information as their main objective. Creating protective school environments, a form of structural intervention, was also more often mentioned as a main objective in 2007 (six countries) than it was in 2004 (four countries). The changes in reported objectives may reflect the adoption of a more rational and evidence-based approach, but the extent to which this change in objectives reflects actual provision is unclear.

The authors say that many countries are trying to engage parents, but it isn’t yet clear whether that is effective.

In contrast, some of the more strongly evidence based interventions are reported in only a few countries. These include standardised programmes, peer approaches or interventions specifically for boys; all of which aim to improve communication skills, increase abilities in handling conflicts, stress and frustration, or correct normative misperceptions about drug use. The overall predominance of interventions that lack or have only a weak evidence base might be due to the fact that they require fewer resources and less staff training.

They go on to say that schools are important in providing “protective and normative social environments” which influence young people’s decisions about drugs.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: europe

Young people’s attitudes to drugs

The EMCDDA have a new survey of young people’s attitudes to drugs:

Between 80% and 94% of those surveyed thought heroin, cocaine and ecstasy posed a ‘high risk’, compared with around 40% for cannabis. Meanwhile, 43% felt that cannabis use represented a ‘medium health risk’, similar to the perceived risk of smoking tobacco.

The full report gives a lot more detail. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: europe, ,

Cannabis far more toxic to the adolescent brain

The Irish Independent highlights some unpublished research:

CANNABIS is far more toxic to the brains of young people who are exposed to the drug, than it is to adults, according to ground-breaking new Irish research.

The unpublished work, by scientists at Trinity College, Dublin, includes technology which actually takes photographs of subjects’ brains.

Studies into cannabis, running in tandem, point to a difference in the way the brain operates for cannabis users and non-cannabis users.

But the research also suggests that the drug is more toxic to youngsters.

Filed under: cannabis, europe, research,

Towards a better understanding of drug-related public expenditure in Europe

The EMCDDA have been trying to work out how much European countries spend on drug related services. It’s not easy, as they point out:

drug services usually do not stand in isolation and form part of many publicly-funded programmes including education and crime reduction and other services that provide support to problem drug users.

Labelled drug expenditure

Labelled drug expenditure

Furthermore, they’re also having to look at various levels of government spending:

while a large portion of public money may be voted for central government support for community development, this same money may then be disbursed for expenditure to a range of regional or local programmes or projects, which may be coded to a specific health-related or education-related activity.

Apparently the UK is the only country that labels its explicit drug education spend (it’s 1.3% which compares with 24% that is spent on public order and safety). But just using those figures would distort the picture:

in the United Kingdom, much of the expenditure data is aggregated at programme level and, without a detailed analysis of local expenditure documents, it is difficult to classify using broad headings.

Even so, it’s interesting to look at the differences between different countries and the screen grab from the report seems to show just how different things are.

Filed under: europe, funding

EUDAP Materials

Teacher Handbook

The EU Drug Abuse Prevention website now has materials that are downloadable.

You’ll remember that their initial evaluation of their Unplugged programme found that the:

Interventions groups smoked 12% less during past 30 days, 14% less in a regular way and 30% less daily, when compared with controls. The frequency of drunkenness in past 30 days was also reduced by 28% and 31% for at least once and regularly respectively, and the consumption of cannabis was reduced by 23 and 24%, ALO and regularly respectively, The use of other drugs, although rare, was reduced by 11%.

I’m told by one of the people implementing the programme that the second phase of evaluation has now been completed and this continues to show an impact.

Unplugged Student Workbook

As well as teacher and pupil facing resources there’s also a guide for implementing the programme, which they say:

is written with three audiences in mind: national and local authorities, principals and teachers. Composed of five parts, this guide assist in the implementation of Comprehensive Social Influence (CSI) curricula in schools.

The first part is an introduction which reviews the EU-Dap Trial and explains better practices in preventing tobacco, alcohol and other drug use among adolescents. The next three chapters provide relevant and practical information to identify and overcome barriers in order to effectively implement CSI curricula in schools for the three audiences. The final part is a resource tool box to help plan, implement and evaluate CSI programming.

Implementation Guide

Implementation Guide

So, here’s what you can get:

  • The guide for implementing the programme,
  • the Teachers’ Handbook,
  • the Student’s Workbook,
  • student Quiz Cards,
  • resources for the Parents’ Workshop, and
  • the Training for Teachers pack.

They do strongly suggest that anyone wanting to use the materials takes part in the training for teachers, which they suggest usually takes place over 2 days.

Filed under: drug education, europe, ,

UK-style school drug prevention programme helps prevent regular drinking

Drug and Alcohol Findings write up findings about some drug education carried out in Dutch schools.

The similarity with the UK-style of teaching is in how few lessons there were – 3 per year – and the attempts to influence knowledge, decision making, refusal skills and pupils attitudes towards their own health.

By year three (age 15), only with respect to alcohol had substance use consistently and substantially risen less in programme than control schools. The effect was apparent in year one and maintained through to year three when, for example, 33% were drinking weekly compared to 46% of controls.

The gap on tobacco was there in the first year (when there was a focus on that substance) but narrowed during the period the programme ran.

While acknowledging the methodological flaws in the study and the limited outcomes the paper concludes:

The message of the study seems to be that less intensive programmes can create worthwhile prevention gains if they take a whole-school approach, pick up on individual problems as well as providing universal education, are well-structured but flexible, based on research and aim for realistic objectives.

Filed under: drug education, europe, research,

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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July 2021