Drug Education News

News and views from the Drug Education Forum

ACMD Pathways to Problems Conference – Monday June 2nd 2008

I’ve been asked to let you know about this conference – at which I’ll be speaking amongst a range of much better known speakers:

The original Pathways to Problems report, published in 2006 made recommendations to reduce the hazardous use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs by young people in the UK

The Pathways to Problems Conference on Monday 2nd June 2008 will be looking at the implementation of the 24 recommendations from the report by Government Departments and other national and local organisations; assessing the impact of those recommendations. It will also provide delegates with an opportunity to share good practice and develop networking opportunities.

This free event is being held at the Church House Conference Centre, Dean’s Yard, Westminster, London SW1P 3NZ.

The programme can be downloaded here. Places are available on a first come first serve basis by prior registration.

You can apply by e-mail to Mark Keegan in the ACMD Secretariat at Mark.Keegan@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk or telephone on 020 7035 4568.

Filed under: ACMD, Conferences, ,

More Cannabis

After the morning’s slew of stories on the ACMD’s position on the classification of cannabis we now have an afternoon of it too:

  • Q&A: Cannabis and health – BBC
  • Defiant Brown set to tighten law on cannabis – The Independent
  • Cannabis: Expert advice versus politics – The Social Work Blog
  • PM keen to reclassify cannabis despite committee advice – The Guardian
  • Q&A: cannabis reclassification – The Guardian
  • Police want cannabis reclassified – BBC

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, classification, , ,

Cannabis ‘should remain class C’

The BBC believe that the ACMD are to recommend that cannabis remains a Class C drug.

Channel 4, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Daily Mail, Metro, Times and Guardian repeat the story.

Meanwhile the American government’s Pushing Back website seems to misunderstand our classification system.

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, classification, , ,

ACMD’s Cannabis Review

Sarah Graham reflects on Day 1 of the ACMD’s public hearings on cannabis reclassification.  She says she made 5 points, and had a sixth she’d wanted to make:

1) That the day was entirely missing the voices of young people- especially those who have experienced cannabis dependency. That the recovery process for this drug is long, slow and painful. And from a psychological perspective it can be as, if not more so, difficult as some Class A drugs to heal from.

2) There is very little cannabis specific treatment provision in the UK- especially for young people.

3) I reminded the ACMD that although we had heard many rational, scientific arguments today, drug use is emotionally driven. Becoming dependent on substances isn’t very rational.

4) Skunk is a brand in itself- you need to understand it’s place in drug “culture”. So, therefore, classification is a SYMBOLIC statement. Not just about the nitty-gritty of sentencing etc. Is cannabis a “soft” drug? I don’t think so.

5) (I thought this would put the cat amongst the pigeons)… I urged them to consider skunk’s place in the UK’s growing gang culture and the explosion of teen on teen violence (not mentioned- no papers presented). How many years until we have the data?

I had one more point- but I sensed they wanted me to shut up..My last thought is that I would be very interested into research into the new generation of hyper-real gaming (Playstation 3/X-Box) and the role of cannabis in blurring the boundaries between reality and fantasy.

The experience of violence and killing on these new machines is very different to the Sega Megadrive and the other techno dinosaurs I grew up with.

Other media also cover the issue of cannabis today:

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, classification, ,

Submission to ACMD on Cannabis Review

The following is the Drug Education Forum’s submission to the ACMD for their review of cannabis.

Drug Education and Cannabis Classification

The Drug Education Forum as a group interested in educational outcomes and the wellbeing of children and young people believe that, as far as possible, classification should be intelligible and logical so that it can be explained in a justifiable and rational way. To that end, frequent changes are not helpful in enhancing credibility of politicians or scientists unless there are new facts available to justify a change of opinion or politicians are prepared to say their previous decisions were mistaken.

It is important that children and young people get clear and consistent messages about drugs, both legal and illegal.  This would include cannabis, the most widely used illegal drug by young people.

Effective drug education seeks to improve children and young people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes towards drugs.  Included in this will be information about the legal status of particular drugs.

However, it is important that, should cannabis be reclassified, that this is accompanied with the appropriate resources are made available to ensure that children and young people understand the law and the consequences that flow from breaking it.  These resources need to be appropriate for delivery in a variety of different settings (including schools, colleges, PRUs and informal settings such as youth clubs) and for different age groups.

Evidence suggests that drug education is more effective when it is combined with wider drug information campaigns.  Should cannabis be reclassified it would be essential if schools and other educational settings receive guidance on the changes to the legal position in time for them to be able to plan and deliver sessions during the same period as any public awareness campaigns are programmed.

We believe that information and guidance is needed at both national and local level, as interpretations will vary in terms of local policing and prevention priorities and activities. We would stress that everything should be done to avoid the needless criminalization of young people – which may after all represent one of the greatest harms from cannabis, depending on levels of use.

We also commend the uptake of the kind of sensible advice contained in the guidance documents for schools, youth services and police produced by the government (in the case of the former) and Drugscope (for the latter two) – although these may well need to be updated to reflect any changes in the classification of cannabis.

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, classification, ,

Cannabis Reclassification

The Telegraph and Times think they know Gordon Brown’s mind on the issue of reclassifying cannabis.

The Telegraph says:

Whitehall sources have confirmed even if the advisory council’s study does not give him full support, he is likely to instruct Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, to override the recommendation and go ahead with reclassification to class B.

Miss Smith is not due to receive the report until March.

Mr Brown’s surprise announcement of a review was one of several attempts to reverse parts of the agenda pursued by Tony Blair.

The Times:

Cannabis is to be reclassified as a Class B drug after an official review this spring, The Times has learnt.

Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith are determined to reverse the decision to downgrade the drug when the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs completes its report in the next few months.

While its recommendations are not yet known, ministers are already making plain that the Home Secretary is prepared to overrule the expert body if necessary.

Also covered in The Metro.

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, classification, ,

Reclassifying cannabis ‘would make no difference to young’

The Independent pick up on research published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (you can see my summary of the paper here).  The paper says:

Reclassifying cannabis would be pointless and therefore unlikely to make any difference to young users of the drug, according to a new report by some of the country’s top criminal policy experts.

Cannabis has now become such an important part of youth culture that a new generation of users are supplying each other with the drug, buying and sharing it with friends and relatives. A team of researchers from the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) led by Professor Mike Hough, a senior adviser to the Home Office, has concluded that the “social supply” of cannabis has almost entirely cut out traditional drug dealers and therefore needs a new approach. Their findings reveal that 90 per cent of young users can get hold of cannabis in under a day – with the majority able to get it within an hour.

I have no reason to doubt the accuracy of the figures that the paper and the ICPR report, but I think it’s pertinent to point to some research by the SHEU.  In a paper that was sent to me this morning they make two points:

Experimentation has not grown in proportion with availability; therefore, young people are able to refuse unwelcome offers of cannabis.

Young people’s perceptions of the dangers of drugs have firmed up over recent years; until recently older pupils were inclined to be more sanguine about any risks, butnow there is an awareness of the dangers.

To back up their first point they provide the following graphs which look at those saying they have taken cannabis and, on the right, the percentage that say they have been offered cannabis:

SHEU on cannabis

The Drug Education Forum is currently putting together a submission to the ACMD for them to consider as part of their review of the classification of cannabis.  Once that has been finalised we’ll publish it.

Filed under: ACMD, cannabis, SHEU, , , ,

Boys of 12 are abusing steroids

The BBC, Independent and Guardian all carry the story about the ACMD’s concern about the use of anabolic steroids by boys.

The BBC:

Boys as young as 12 and 13 are using anabolic steroids to beef up their bodies in a bid to “get girls”, government advisers have warned.

Latest figures show that 200,000 people in Britain have tried bodybuilding anabolic steroids – including an increasing number of teenage boys.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs called for a government awareness campaign on the health hazards.

The Independent:

Lord Adebowale, a member of the advisory council, told a meeting yesterday: “I am concerned by the lack of information about the risks they face in using them. This stuff isn’t being used just by people who want to be athletes, but by people who want to be in boy bands and get girls.”

Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, the council’s chairman, said steroids could make the testicles wither and cause acne, sterility and a form of breast enlargement. He added: “Even more worryingly, there is emerging evidence that anabolic steroids cause aggression. I’m really very worried about that.”

 The Guardian puts it this way:

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is to write to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, voicing grave concerns about the growing abuse of anabolic steroids which are now being used by “tens of thousands” of bodybuilders and teenagers.

It had been estimated that there were tens of thousands of people using steroids to improve the results of training regimes to make themselves look more muscular, said Professor David Nutt, chairman of the council’s technical committee. Steroid users, rather than heroin injectors, were now the main clients of needle exchanges, the committee heard.

Looking back at previous stories about steroids I see that the Daily Mail, when they had the story back in May, were quoted 100,000 steroid users.

In September last year DrugScope produced their annual street price survey which raised the issue of steroid use amongst older teenagers as a concern.

Filed under: ACMD, Steroids, ,

ACMD respond to the Drug Strategy

The government’s advisory body on drugs, the ACMD, have published their response to the drug strategy consultation, and they don’t pull their punches:

it is unfortunate that the consultation paper’s ‘key facts and evidence’ section appears to focus on trying to convince the reader of success and progress; rather than providing an objective review and presentation of the current evidence. The ACMD found the consultation paper self-congratulatory and generally disappointing.

Like the Drug Education Forum they ACMD think it will be important that the strategy draws in the alcohol and tobacco strategies, and goes on to call for greater focus on the:

Provision of skills-based, child/young person centred education.

They say the key messages for young people (and presumably their parents too) are:

The majority of young people do not misuse drugs.

More young people are offered drugs than misuse them. Young people who misuse alcohol do not necessarily misuse drugs.

The council thinks that parenting skills lessons should be universally available, and that drug education should be embedded. They say that a system that was looking to intervene early would contain (amongst other things):

contain needs-led drug, alcohol, risk education from nursery onwards

Turning to drug education itself they say:

Drug and alcohol education needs to be part of wider Personal Social Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) / Healthy Schools approach to addressing children and young people’s health and well-being.

There should be improved professional training of teachers, regardless of subject specialism or age group. The Pathways to Problems (2006) report included evidence from Scotland which showed that schools were using methods that were out of date, teachers and outside agents had not had appropriate training in the last three years and there was duplicating education content between primary and secondary schools.

They reitterate what the Pathways to Problems report said about the evidence base for what drug education can be expected to achieve in terms of modifying behaviour, but go on to say:

Drug education should aim to be targeted; needs led and started in Primary School to enable children to:

  • resist drug use altogether;
  • equip children with the skills to make informed decisions.

Further research or analysis of the latest drug education is needed. Reference also needs to be made to international evidence about what works.

In their view drug education should:

the education needs to focus on the increasing of resilience and the recognition of behavioural change programmes.

They tell the government that information campaigns have to support what is happening in drug education, rather than being run in isolation.

Filed under: ACMD, drug strategy,

One in ten young drivers ‘drunk or stoned’

The Metro cover a survey of young drivers:

More than 40 per cent ‘feel fine’ to drive after taking drugs, while 31 per cent say it is OK to drive after drinking, the survey from magazine website Auto Trader found.

Many of the 8,000 17 to 24-year-olds quizzed were unsure of the legal alcohol limits.

Effective drug education might be part of the answer.

A couple of years ago the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs called for more work to be done on delivering drug education in further and higher education.  They said:

Despite the evidence that large numbers of young people only start using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs once they have left school, very little seems to be done to provide information or support in the higher and further education sectors.

They went on to recommend that:

all universities, colleges of further education and other major training institutions should take more responsibility for encouraging and enabling their students or trainees to minimise the hazardous use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.

When Mentor UK did a review of the literature on drug education and prevention in further and higher education they found:

Little is known about the harm that alcohol and/or drugs cause among students in the UK and about the effectiveness of universities and colleges’ efforts to prevent substance misuse and related harm. Evidence about the effectiveness of drug education/awareness campaigns, social norms interventions, extracurricular activities and motivational interviewing is discussed. The paper concludes that more effort is needed to build the evidence base of drug prevention, increase the profile of drug prevention in further and higher education and support further education colleges and universities to deliver effective interventions.

Filed under: drug education, , , ,

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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