The Drug Tests Don't Work 

The Drug Tests Don't Work 
Posted by FoM on January 20, 2002 at 11:41:40 PT
By Viv Evans
Source: The Observer U.K.
Drugs have again hit the headlines with a vengeance. But Prince Harry's case simply brings into the public domain the reality that more and more young people are trying drugs. According to the most recent and comprehensive survey of drug use in Britain, 44% of males in Harry's age group (16-19) have tried an illegal drug, rising to 63% for men aged 20-24. So Harry's experiment with cannabis should come as no surprise. 
And young people seem to have hardly batted an eyelid, in sharp contract to the reaction from certain parts of the media. This disconnection between the reality observed by today's young people - where trying drugs at least once is the norm - and that believed in by many parents and much of the media causes many problems. While Prince Charles' handling of the issue has been widely praised, to many young people the treatment of the issue ignored obvious realities. Firstly, despite what many commentators and politicians suggest, young people know that cannabis does not inevitably lead them to crack and heroin dependency and winding up in a clinic. They have many friends who have regularly smoked cannabis and have never progressed onto other more harmful drugs. Secondly young people realise that the greater concern should really be with binge drinking rather than with occasional cannabis use. Yet many of their advisers - who are more likely to drink than smoke cannabis - casually disregard the scientific evidence that alcohol, particularly binge drinking, is much more harmful than cannabis use. Knowledge of drug issues and the reality of drug taking is often much higher among young people. That is why scare-mongering and a 'just say no approach' does not work and is more likely to do harm than good. Of course, drug use is worrying for many parents. But the evidence is that young people actively want their parents to talk to them about drugs. If parents want to have the biggest impact on young people's choices, parents should first equip themselves with the facts, not the media myths and popular hyperbole, but the facts about the real risks involved. They should then take the time to listen to their children and answer their questions as honestly and openly as they can. Only if parents do this will children listen to their parents and base their choices on the risks involved. A 'just say no approach' which fails to connect with young peoples' reality, will simply make the child seek information sources elsewhere and perhaps become more likely to experiment with drugs as a result.Children also want information from their teachers. The approach signalled by Eton of testing their pupils for drug use and expelling any pupil testing positive is seriously misguided. Quite apart from the civil liberties angle, there is no evidence that drug testing is an effective intervention in stopping drug use. It certainly does not distinguish between someone who tries cannabis once and someone with a real drug problem. Drug testing, which is often inaccurate, demonstrates a lack of trust that will undermine any drug education program at the school. Expelling pupils is likely to worsen any drug problem they may have and can also lead the child into a downward spiral of social exclusion. Where a drug misuse problem is found there should be help and support for the individuals involved, and not simply expulsion that can exacerbate any problem that does exist. The evidence shows that exclusion further increases the chance that young people will use drugs. 63% of excluded children have been offered cannabis compared with 25% of children in school; 29% of excluded children have tried a class A drug compared with only 5% of children in school and 61% of excluded pupils have taken a class B drug, compared with only 15% of children in school.Young people need their parents and teachers to be equipped with the facts and able to respond to their questions and concerns. If they are, then parents and teachers will be more confident and better equipped to talk to young people about drugs. And young people will be more likely to listen.Viv Evans is Head of Education and Prevention Unit, DrugScope.DrugScope is the UK's leading drug charity. For more information go to -- DrugScope publish a government endorsed good practice guide for schools that advises how schools can best respond to drug issues. DrugScope also provides information for schools on drugs in the curriculum. This information is available to schools by calling DrugScope on 020 79 28 1771.Parents who want more information should go to DrugScope's website at -- -- or phone the National Drugs Helpline on 0800 77 66 00. Note: Eton's approach to drugs exemplifies how schools and teachers get it wrong, and fail to give young people the informed advice they want. Source: Observer, The (UK)Author: Viv EvansPublished: Sunday, January 20, 2002Copyright: 2002 The ObserverContact: letters Articles:Dope-Dabbling Prince Seen as Just a Normal Kid Problems and Cannabis Law
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Comment #1 posted by E_Johnson on January 20, 2002 at 12:11:45 PT
What about Prince Charles deserves to be praised?
While Prince Charles' handling of the issue has been widely praised, to many young people the treatment of the issue ignored obvious realities. One obvious reality that everyone is ignoring is that Prince Charles is a negligent parent. Why does his handling of this problem deserve praise? He had to be told what his son was doing in his own home by his servants. Why wasn't Chalres around to spend time with his son when he came home from boarding school?And we don't really know whether Harry is just having a lad's bit of fun on school holiday, or if he is showing behavior suggestive of serious problems in his mental health.Everyone still is using the marijuana issue as a distraction away from questions about the mental health of this young man.His mother was very troubled (in a competely drug free way), and now his mother is dead. Harry is very likely going to have problems with depression throughout his life. If he is having problems with depression now, then taking him for a tour of a drug rehab center is not going to do him much help.And using his persomnal issues as a way to debate drug policy isn't going to help the poor lad much either.Prince Charles is handling this problem in a way that is conveniently sensitive to public attitudes towards drug laws in Britain and in line with his own politics. But is he acting more as a concerned father, or more as someone who wants to show his Mum that he can be a good King if she would just bloody well let him?
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