Don't Preach, Teach 

Don't Preach, Teach 
Posted by CN Staff on May 22, 2002 at 11:56:02 PT
By Vivienne Evans 
Source: Guardian Unlimited
Messages are extremely important for governments to get right, and there is no better example than with the emotive and complex subject of drug education. Yesterday the government held a meeting to discuss ways forward to enhance the quality of drugs education.Just to put it into context, the Office of National Statistics carried out a survey of drinking and drug habits of young people in 2000. It found that around one in six pupils (11 to 15-year-olds) reported they had ever used drugs. Among 15-year-olds alone, 32% of pupils had used drugs.
There is no doubting that drug use among young people is an issue we must address.There has been a lot of talk about a "hard hitting" approach and employing anti-drugs shock tactics. If by this the government means factually based information which captures the reality of drugs and the harm they can do, then of course this is something we endorse, and indeed is at the centre of all high quality drug education at present. DrugScope also accepts that there is a place for real life stories, such as the one featuring Rachel Whitear, as part of a rounded package of factual drug education. If, however, the government means a return to the "just say no" tactics of old, where "education" was based on fear rather than knowledge, then we would not only disagree with the stance but warn that it could be exceedingly dangerous.As the drugs minister Bob Ainsworth said in February, "Our evaluation is that it [a just say no approach] is not going to [work] and what we are effectively going to do, if we attempt to preach to young people, is switch them off and they will not listen at all."Research in Holland by W. de Haes, a leading drug education expert, concluded that drug education programmes, which were purely warning, instead of preventing drug use infact had a stimulating effect on drug experimentation.The report concluded that this kind of education was not to be encouraged but that instead, talking about drugs within the context of young people's lives and problems could have an effect on reducing drug experimentation.It is also important not to treat young people as a homogenous mass. What will work in terms of education for some young people may not work for others. That is why it is essential the government maintains a pragmatic programme of drug education to ensure messages to young people about drugs are credible.Young people know that you don't die from smoking one joint, so the government needs drug education messages that accept that reality and differentiate between different substances. If messages are not credible, the danger is that young people will not listen to any government on drugs. Worse still, presenting messages that don't fit with young people's reality could lead to them seeking information from less reliable sources, or even trying them themselves.Whether we like it or not, drugs are increasingly part of most young people's lives and it is from this premise that DrugScope believes young people should be given balanced, accurate information about drugs.At a time when the government's drugs policy is moving towards an evidence based one, it would be a real shame if this good work was undermined by a confusing message from the Department for Education and Skills.Note: The government needs to get the message right about drugs, or young people will not listen, says Vivienne Evans. Vivienne Evans is head of education and prevention at DrugScope - Alcohol Concern. Source: Guardian Unlimited, The (UK)Author: Vivienne EvansPublished: Wednesday, May 22, 2002Copyright: 2002 Guardian Newspapers LimitedContact: letters Articles & Web Sites:DrugScope Uncovered: Observer Special Marijuana Penalties, UK Legislators Say Move Away from Retribution Signal New Era in Drugs War Love Not War - Leader
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