Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

Does this sound familiar?

A report into drug education found:

  • Support services were crucial for school and teachers that find it difficult to implement SPHE.
  • There is little engagement with parents in the planning and development of the programme.
  • Curriculum overload, timetable pressures and lack of status for SPHE affect its provision in schools.

The survey was carried out in Ireland as part of developing a new drug strategy. You can read more about what they found in the Irish Examiner.

What struck me was how much of what our Irish colleagues found was reflected in our the findings of the review of drug and alcohol education last year, where our three key recommendations were to:

  • Increase parents’ and carers’ knowledge and skills about drug and alcohol education and prevention enabling them to better inform and protect their children;
  • Improve the quality of drug and alcohol education by making PSHE a statutory subject – to enable schools and colleges to promote well-being effectively, and to improve the quality of training for PSHE teachers; and
  • Improve identification and support for young people vulnerable to drug misuse in schools, colleges and non-formal settings.

Filed under: drug education, International

Australian alcohol guidelines

As we wait for the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) guidance to parents and young people about alcohol to be finalised it might be useful to compare his putative 5 messages against what is in the new Australian alcohol guidelines.

The CMO’s advice boils down to:

  • an alcohol-free childhood is the healthiest and best option – if children drink alcohol, it shouldn’t be before they reach 15 years old
  • for those aged 15 – 17 years old all alcohol consumption should always be with the guidance of a parent or carer or in a supervised environment
  • parents and young people should be aware that drinking, even at age 15 or older, can be hazardous to health and not drinking is the healthiest option for young people. If children aged 15 – 17 consume alcohol they should do so infrequently and certainly on no more than one day a week
  • the importance of parental influences on children’s alcohol use should be communicated to parents, carers and professionals. Parents and carers need advice on how to respond to alcohol use and misuse by children
  • support services must be available for children and young people who have alcohol related problems and their parents.

The Australian advice for young people is:

For children and young people under 18 years of age, not drinking alcohol is the safest option.

A: Parents and carers should be advised that children under 15 years of age are at the greatest risk of harm from drinking and that for this age group, not drinking alcohol is especially important.

B: For young people aged 15−17 years, the safest option is to delay the initiation of drinking for as long as possible.

They go on to point out how similar it is to the UK’s position and point to Australian research which:

tracked young people and their drinking patterns from 14 to 21 years old, shows drinking in teenage years is linked to higher risks of alcohol dependence problems in young adulthood, even when drinking is at “low-risk” levels. These results confirm earlier Australian research that found the drinking patterns of adolescents in the final years of secondary schooling (high, moderate and low level) is predictive of their drinking in the subsequent early adult years (Toumbourou et al. 2004).

The paper sets out how this guidance should be interpreted in a number of educational settings:

School settings: all education materials designed for use in school alcohol education will need to take the new guidelines into account, especially with regard to Guideline 3 [see above]. The position on not drinking alcohol before the age of 18 years creates a huge challenge for educators, given the level of—and acceptance of—underage drinking in the community. Careful attention will be needed in communicating and explaining the evidence base for the new guideline to teachers.

Community settings: the broad variety of groups requiring information and education on the new guidelines means that all the guidelines and additional information are relevant. A range of formats (print, graphic, audiovisual) and styles will be required to effectively communicate with different groups.

Parents and carers: Guideline 3 requires particularly careful communication to parents and carers responsible for young people less than 18 years of age. A clear understanding of the evidence behind this guideline will help reinforce the need for this position. Assisting and encouraging parents in the implementation of the guideline—in the face of current youth drinking levels and acceptance—may also require support and training in parenting skills. The Guidelines can be used to support and reinforce those parents who are seeking to limit and delay the use of alcohol by their children.

Filed under: alcohol, International

Assessing Changes in Global Drug Problems, 1998-2007

The Rand Corporation have published an assessment of global drug policy.

Included in their assessment is a section on prevention. They note that rehetoric about prevention is increasingly prominent in drug policy (citing the UK’s drug strategy as a case in point), but say that spending isn’t necessarily following.  They say:

Estimates of drug control expenditures for the Netherlands (Rigter, 2006) and Sweden (Ramsted, 2006) show that prevention programs account for a very small part of the total, 2% in the case of the Netherlands and 1% in the case of Sweden. Australia is an outlier, with an estimated 23 percent of the drug control budget going to prevention (Moore, 2005). For most countries such estimates are not available. The principal funded programs are school based; some countries eschew mass media campaigns.

Perhaps more worryingly they point out:

Though there is research evidence that effective school based programs are possible the programs that are adopted often have no demonstrated effectiveness (EMCDDA, 2008).

Filed under: drug prevention, International

Building on Our Strengths: Canadian Standards for School-based Substance Abuse Prevention

Last week I saw that the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse had published a set of standards for school based drug prevention.

As my colleague at Mentor UK is in the process of thinking through how something similar – although not exclusively school based – might work in the UK I thought I’d ask her a couple of questions about what the Canadians are saying.

The five standards that are addressed in the document are:

  1. Assess the situation
  2. Prepare a clear and realistic plan
  3. Build capacity and sustainability
  4. Implement a comprehensive initiative
  5. Evaluate the initiative

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Drug Education Forum Members, drug prevention, International

Using Print Media to Motivate College Students to Visit a Website about Sensible Alcohol Use

Via the SHEU, this piece of Dutch research takes a look at using print adverts to get college students to access an alcohol awareness website.

The authors argue:

Whether mass media health education campaigns have any direct effects on health behavior is often a topic of debate. In most studies no direct effects are found (Derzon & Lipsey, 2002), even in controlled studies of theory-based campaigns (Hornik, 2002). In this paper, it is stated that mass media health education advertisements should not be used to promote the desired healthy behavior directly. Instead, they should be used to create awareness for particular health issues and to stimulate information seeking, for instance by visiting a website or calling a telephone hotline.

They found that:

including both attention-getting and likeable message cues and a message tailored to the most important determinant increases the advertisement’s effectiveness in motivating people to visit the campaign website.

Filed under: alcohol, International, research

UNODC Podcasts

The UNODC have a number of (substance specific) podcasts on their World Drug Campaign website.

The introductory file explains the concept, which is to put questions from teenagers to experts.

Filed under: International, UNODC

Drugs, Harm Reduction and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

un-conventionThe International Harm Reduction Association and Youth Rise have been doing some research into young people and drugs in the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and have produced a paper.

Information came back from Argentina, China, India, Indonesia, Romania, Rwanda, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.

They say that there are young people using drugs in each of those countries and argue:

Prevention campaigns have not worked for these young people. The reality is that children and youth under the age of 18 are using drugs and we need to deal with it honestly, openly and without judgement.

The say that part of the problem has been the lack of honest drug education, limiting harm reduction services to adult drug users and policy makers failing to engage with young people:

Children and youth are left out of policy design, and were not involved in creating prevention and awareness campaigns or training and material dissemination. Young people were seen only as recipients of services and not viewed integral components to the programme design. The exclusion of young people from programme and policy design is a result of the added barriers or stigma and discrimination faced by young people.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child calls for countries to take “all appropriate measures…to protect children from the illicit use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances as defined in the relevant international treaties”.

The paper argues that this isn’t what is on offer, with pupils receiving “just say no” educational messages, random drug testing, exclusion from school and what they describe as:

coercive abstinence based treatment, mass incarceration of parents, siblings and youth, and the denial of harm reduction services based solely on arbitrary age restrictions.

The paper argues that states should be providing much more detailed data, so that policy can be built and scrutinised not only on prevalence of use or by the numbers who are arrested for drug offences, but also by looking at which children and young people are most vulnerable and being able to identify them clearly.

They ask whether the best interests of children are being served by the use of the criminal justice system to deal with drug misuse, and ask policy makers to promote “the physical, social, emotional and social development of the

They finish by calling for better consultation with children and young people in developing drug policy where it affects them and their rights.

Filed under: International

Adolescent’s perceptions and expectations of parental action on children’s smoking and snus use

Here’s part of an abstract of Swedish research published in BMC Public Health.

Adolescent smoking in Sweden has decreased and the proportion who never tried smoking has increased. The results of this study show that a growing majority of adolescents support strong parental intervention to help them refrain from tobacco, but preferably not in a punitive manner. This finding dismisses the notion that adolescents ignore or even disdain parental practices concerning tobacco. Prevention strategies and interventions addressing adolescent tobacco use that involve parents can be improved by using these findings to encourage parents to intervene against their children’s tobacco use.

Filed under: International, research, tobacco

What’s the deal on quitting cannabis?

quitting-cannabisVia Drug World News I’ve come across an Australian resource for those trying to reduce or quit their use of cannabis.

It’s not aimed at young people specifically, as far as I can tell, but given that cannabis remains the most widely used illegal drug in the UK and the substance that most young people are seeking treatment for I thought it might be of interest to this audience.

The leaflet says:

Overcoming cannabis dependence or changing any behaviour is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. In fact, most people say that it was not as hard as they first feared. It takes commitment, effort and persistence. Try to have supportive, positive people around you, at least for the first 7 – 10 days.

If you have the desire to change, and work towards your goal in a careful and strategic way, it will work for you.

The leaflet asks the reader to make an assessment of their dependency on cannabis and then to look at strategies for changing their behaviour should the choose to do so.

Download it here.

Filed under: cannabis, International, resources

Presentation to VNGOC Policy Forum

vienna-1I was asked to make a presentation to the Vienna NGO Committee on Narcotic Drugs as part of a session they had on good practice in cyberspace, which I did yesterday.

As you’ll see from the slides below my talk was about this blog and the Forum’s website and I then went on to make some general points about writing for the web reflecting on my experience over the last few years.

It’s my first international conference and was a fantastic opportunity to talk about what we do and the role that this site has had in our work since I came to work for the Forum.

It was also good to hear how others are using the web in their work on drug and alcohol problems.  You can see the agenda for the session here.

I wanted to particularly mention the presenation from Teuvo Peltoniemi, Head, Information Dept, A-Clinic, Finland, and President, PrevNet, who spoke about how ICT is being used to support prevention and treatment services at the moment and talked about how he sees this developing in the future.

I hope I can get a copy of his presentation and if so I’ll post it here.

Filed under: Conferences, 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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July 2021