Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Age of first drug use of 10-25 year olds, 2003-2006 by Region

The Association of Public Health Observatories have published an analysis of drug use relating to the individual, community and population across all nine English regions.

It inlcudes a chapter on young people, and I’ve been playing about with the data to create some maps using the Many Eyes site, and if you click on the map above you should be taken to a more interactive version.

The same data presented as a bar graph (click on the picture to go to the data).

Age of First Drug Use

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Filed under: illegal drugs

Know What Your Getting Into – Radio One

drugpug4_292x220Radio One are continuing their investigation into drug issues.

The site includes a game which has information which is presumably designed to reduce the attractiveness of illegal drugs; for example they say that it is reported that some cannabis has been fattened up with dog poo, and that some cocaine has been found to contain insecticides.

They also have links to a number of documentaries and videos made by the station.

Filed under: illegal drugs

Young Londoners shun drugs for alcohol

gladaA new report from the Greater London Alcohol and Drug Alliance (GLADA), Highs and Lows update briefing, says:

Overall it appears that both alcohol consumption and drug use among young people is lower in London than the national average. In addition,drug use among young Londoners may be declining.

This fits with what I found when looking at the Tellus3 survey results for London.  Though I thought there were interesting differences between what was going on in inner London and the outer suburbs.
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Filed under: alcohol, illegal drugs,

Prioritising investment in public health: A review of the evidence

matrixThe Department of Health have recently had a paper looking at what effective interventions in public health might look like.

Matrix and Bazian reviewed the evidence for 41 interventions types across 8 areas of public policy, including: smoking cessation, avoiding problem drinking, and reducing the harm from illicit drug use.

So while their findings aren’t breaking new ground it’s instructive to look at what they believe the state of evidence is for the areas we’re interested in.

As you’ll see, what the researchers have to say is, overall, a far more positive take on the impact of drug education than I’ve seen from some others who’ve looked at similar evidence.

Reducing smoking and the harms from smoking

Mass Media

They find that while there’s some evidence of effectiveness in mass media campaigns to reduce smoking amongst adults they have less effect on children and young people.  They say:

Overall, there is limited evidence of a low effect of mass media campaigns to reduce smoking in young people.

However, there seems to be an impact on prevalence, and estimate the cost at between £0.26 and £1.78 per capita.

School Based Interventions

They say:

Overall there is evidence of low effectiveness of school based interventions to prevent smoking or encourage cessation in young people.

While they urge caution in interpreting the cost because the only evidence they could find came from the USA they say they estimate the cost at £72 per person.

They say:

The monetary value of the health related quality of life gains associated with school education for smoking cessation exceed its costs.

Preventing dangerous drinking

Mass Media

As with others looking at the impact of advertising they have found that it seems to work best when part of a wider campaign:

Mass Media campaigns when linked to personal prevention activities and other legislative interventions have a moderate effect in reducing the number of alcohol related crashes.

School Based Interventions

Unlike some others the researchers for Matrix and Bazian found good evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol education:

Classroom based education programmes delivered by teachers as part of the school curriculum have a high effect in reducing harmful drinking.

They also looked at one-to-one interventions carried out in schools and say:

There is evidence that one on one school based interventions have a moderate short term effect in preventing or reducing alcohol use in young people.

In terms of the economics of alcohol education they again urge caution (pointing out the evidence isn’t from the UK) but give a range from £21 to £155 per student.

Preventing the uptake of and harm from illicit drugs

Education in School

The paper finds that:

programmes focusing on developing life skills to avoid drug use have a high effect on drug use outcomes.

As with the other interventions they suggest caution when looking at the cost (because the evidence isn’t from the UK) but say that against no intervention the evidence suggests that life skills education costs £124 per participant.

They go on to say that it appears that it appears to be cost effective:

There is strong evidence to suggest that £297 in public sector costs is saved per participant in the year following the intervention.

Support program for vulnerable young people

Also worth noting is the assessment they make of the evidence around supporing vulnerable young people.

Community based support interventions for vulnerable children and young people are estimated to have a moderate effect on use of cannabis, tobacco and alcohol.

Filed under: alcohol, drug education, illegal drugs, research, tobacco

A generation under stress?

a-generation-under-stressMy thanks to the PinkStinks blog for pointing me towards a new report from Girlguiding UK and the Mental Health Foundation about girls mental health.

They surveyed 350 girls between the ages of 10 and 15 and held focus groups with 54 girls between the ages of 10 and 14.

One of the things they found was that:

a quarter know someone who has taken illegal drugs, while two-fifths have experienced someone drinking too much alcohol.

Overall, stable and supportive families and friendship groups were seen as the most important factor in helping girls become resilient to mental health problems. Having someone to talk to who would not judge you – whether that be a mother, teacher, or other supportive adult – was seen to be critically important.

The report goes on to say:

The pressure from magazines and websites directly targeting young girls with messages that they should aspire be thin, take drugs and even have plastic surgery was mentioned by several. Feeling obliged to be in situations where they might be offered alcohol or drugs was a further concern.

The report concludes with a list of things a panel of Girl Guides suggest:

  1. Give girls things to do: from adventure playgrounds to kung fu or street dancing.
  2. Create safe places where girls can have freedom without parents worrying.
  3. Boost confidence by giving girls opportunities to succeed outside school.
  4. Encourage girls to try something new.
  5. Make girls feel normal and accepted – whatever problems they might have.
  6. Don’t overwhelm them with advice – give them space.
  7. Help them understand that they can’t always help the way they feel.
  8. Initiate a young mayor scheme – giving girls a say in important decisions.
  9. Make information about where to turn for help easily available.
  10. Use the Girlguiding UK website to offer advice and support.

Filed under: alcohol, illegal drugs, mental health

Time for Action – Young Londoners and Tellus3

Time for ActionJust had a chance to look at the Mayor of London’s new vision for equipping young people for the future and preventing violence.

The Mayor has 5 priorities:

1. Giving young offenders in prison for the first time the life tools that will enable careers other than professional criminality. It makes sense on all levels, even financially.

2. Teachers can only educate kids if they are actually in school. Truancy needs more co-ordinated and assertive effort.

3. Only a tiny minority of children in care go to university. They are much more likely to end up in prison. We want to change these numbers.

4. Their behaviour shows that too many young people lack self-respect and character. Organisations like the Scouts, Girl Guides and Police Cadets know a lot about character, and we need their help.

5. Sport can unify and redeem. Healthy bodies lead to healthy minds, and we want more sporty, active kids in our city. 
In addition to these themes, the Mayor wants to establish specialist Mayoral Academies across London to help equip the city and young people with the skills needed for the future.

A number of these should impact on the risk and protective factors around substance misuse.  But the text of the strategy doesn’t really have much to say about the problems young people in London might face around drugs and alcohol.

There is a brief mention about the links between gangs and drug dealing, and also that access to drugs and alcohol can be increase the risks of offending, but beyond that I didn’t see anything which would indicate that the Mayor sees drugs and alcohol misuse by young people as a priority for his administration.

And perhaps he’s got a point.

Tellus3 in London

Looking at the results for the Ofsted Tellus3 survey I’ve pulled out the London boroughs (where there is information – Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, Southwark and the Corporation of London didn’t participate) and there are some interesting findings.



  • Fewer young people from London say they have taken drugs than the national average, 9% to 11% respectively.
  • There was no difference in number that said they had not taken drugs (86%).
  • Looking at individual boroughs young people in Kensington and Chelsea are the least likely to say they have taken drugs (3%), and those from Richmond-Upon-Thames the most likely to answer yes (17%). (Bexley didn’t provide information on this question).


Ofsted Tellus3
  • Many more young Londoners say they’ve never had an alcoholic drink than the national average.
  • In Tower Hamlets over 60% of pupils say they have never had a drink.  In Havering this falls to 23%.
  • 7% of pupils from Bromley and Kingston say that they have been drunk three or more times in the last four weeks (compared to a national average of 6%).


Time for Action is a consultation document.  To submit your comments complete the web-based feedback form below by 16 December 2008.

Filed under: alcohol, illegal drugs, Ofsted,

DrugScope’s Street Drug Trends Survey 2008

The annual survey that DrugScope does has been published.  It has found an increase in the use of diazepam including amongst some young people.  They also say:

Polydrug use – using combinations of alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy – was highlighted by several respondents as a significant problem, among some young people.Commercially home-grown skunk cannabis was dominating the cannabis market in many areas, with users finding it hard to obtain lower strength resin or imported herbal cannabis.

 Coverage of the survey comes from Reuters, The Guardian, The BBC, The Daily Star, and ITN.

Filed under: Drug Education Forum Members, drug information, illegal drugs

Britain’s booming drugs culture

ITV News

The Department of Health has published research which shows Britain has one of the highest levels of abuse in Western Europe, with cocaine and ecstasy use at the weekend growing.

A quarter of secondary age schoolchildren have admitted trying drugs, with cocaine becoming more popular with teenagers, the study says.

Meanwhile, the number of U-16s admitted to hospital because of illegal substances has risen by half in the past ten years.

See also, The Telegraph, East Anglian Daily Times, Dorset Echo.

Filed under: illegal drugs

Teenagers trying out soft drugs isn’t so bad for them – or for us

India Knight writing in the Sunday Times takes a look at the latest survey of young people’s drug use and argues that for most young people this any use of illegal drugs is likely to be short term. She says:

I don’t find the figures for teenagers especially alarming. I know we’re all supposed to tremble in our boots at the evil of recreational drug-taking but experimenting with drugs just seems to me normal – banal, really.

She admits this may be down to her own experiences with what she calls soft drugs. She concludes:

For the majority, being cool about drugs means shrugging them off – not because you’re nerdy or square, or because you’re scared, but because you’re intelligent enough to check out Pete Doherty or Amy Winehouse, both touched by genius and both made repulsive through their excesses, and think, “Ew, no thanks”. This doesn’t mean that the spirit of experimentation is dead – teenagers are teenagers and trying things out is part of the process – but it does mean that we can ease off a bit on the gloomy prognosis front.

Smoking the odd (nonskunk) joint isn’t automatically going to turn a teenager into a raving, scabby crackhead. Frankly, it’s more likely to turn him intoa newspaper columnist.

Filed under: drug information, illegal drugs

Crime in England and Wales 2007/2008

The Home Office have published their annual report on crime in England and Wales, which includes the British Crime Survey figures and police recorded crime.

On drugs they say:

Among 16 to 24 year olds there was a decrease in the use of any illicit drug in the last year, from 24.1% to 21.3%.

This they say is the lowest level since the first BCS results in 1995. They also say that Class A drug use amongst that age group is at its lowest level since 1995.

However, while self-reported use is down the police have been busier than last year:

The number of cannabis possession offences rose by 21%, largely associated with the increased police use of powers to issue cannabis warnings, an example of changes in police activity affecting trends.

Filed under: british crime survey, cannabis, illegal drugs,

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