Protecting young people from drugs and alcoholGetting better drug education into schools
Did you know......fewer young people are drinking,smoking or taking other drugs than10 or 20 years ago.
But the health andsocial impacts oflegal and illegaldrugs leave noroom forcomplacency.
Is drug education in schools up to the challenge?“The year 11s are getting the same boringdrugs PowerPoint as the year 7s...”“I am 16 years of age;colouring pictures ofsmiley face Ecstasytablets will not makeme less inclined totake it.”
Simply giving the facts aboutalcohol, tobacco and other drugs... has little impact on young people’s decisions
Dire health warningsalso seem to be ineffective
So what does work?• Approaches based on ‘life skills’ or ‘social influences’ are the most effective at changing young people’s behaviour.• Programmes such as ‘Life Skills Training’ and ‘Unplugged’ have been tested in other countries and found to reduce alcohol, tobacco and cannabis use.• Their approach has a lot in common with ‘good’ PSHE teaching.
‘Life skills’ include...• Assertiveness and negotiation• Managing difficult social situations• Making and keeping positive friendships
These relate to the different reasons whyyoung people may take drugs • Experimenting out of curiosity or boredom • To look tough • To deal with anxiety or stress • Enjoyment or relaxation • To fit in with a group • To rebel • Thrill-seeking • “Everybody’s doing it”
One element of life skillsapproaches is to challengeyoung people’s ideas aboutwhat is normal and accepted.For example, young smokersthink smoking is much morecommon than it actually is.
Research suggests thathow drug education istaught is as importantas what is taught.
Lecturing students ismuch less effectivethan interactive drugeducation.
Interactive learning is key:“You can’t learn life skills from a book”
• Successful drug prevention programmes demand time for reflection, review and building on knowledge• In contrast, schools often teach drug education in one-off drop-down days.
Should teachers hand overto ‘experts’ on drugs?
Police as drug educators• Content and teaching skills (what and how) are more important than who is teaching.• There is no evidence that police-led programmes are particularly effective in drug prevention.• The most effective police contribution is probably to teach about drugs and the law within a school-led programme.
Are ex-addicts the answer?• Those who have overcome addiction may want to help by sharing their own experiences.• As speakers, they often capture young people’s imagination.• But there is little evidence that their talks help young people avoid harmful drug use.• One piece of research found that young people’s willingness to try drugs increased after the session.
Teachers can do a good job......but they need to be giventhe right tools and supportToo often drugs education isleft to teachers who are trainednot in PSHE but in French orGeography.
Another approach to drug prevention• Young people disengaged from school are at greater risk of harmful drug use• One programme, the ‘Good Behaviour Game’ helps even disruptive young children to settle down and work quietly.• Later in life these children were less likely drop out of education or develop drug problems.
To protect young people from drugs and alcohol,Mentor campaigns to improve drug education and tobring evidence-based programmes into UK schools