Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Letter from Cara MacDowall, Communications Officer, DrugScope

  Thank you for your letter regarding drugs education and prevention work with young people. DrugScope as an organisation prides itself on providing balanced, accurate drug information to professionals and the public. For professionals, DrugScope has produced a number of guidance documents, supported and endorsed by the Department for Education and Skills. We have also produced three drug education magazines; one for children aged 11-14 (D-Brief), one for older teenagers (D-Mag) and one for parents to assist them in talking to their children about drugs (D-Word).

  DrugScope research has shown that by the age of 11, many primary school children have an extensive knowledge about the world of drugs.[5] Research shows that legal and illegal drug use among young people is rising with 42 per cent of 16-19 year olds in 2000 indicating that they have ever taken any drug.[6] Whether we like it or not, drugs are part of most young people's lives. It is from this premise that DrugScope believes young people should be given balanced, accurate information about drugs.

  Evidence about different drug education approaches is inconclusive about its effects on the behaviour changes that will prevent drug use. DrugScope would, however, advocate the importance of credible and accurate information to young people over a "just say no approach". A "just say no approach" or shock tactics do not connect with young peoples' reality; they are not credible with young people who may think the message, in their experience, does not reflect the whole truth. The approach may also make young people seek information elsewhere, from friends, for example, which may not be accurate.

  DrugScope's view is shared by the current Minister with responsibility for drugs, Bob Ainsworth who said to the Committee on 12 February:

    "We [the Government] are trying to be effective and the judgement that we have come to in deciding how we could be effective is that preaching at young people is not going to work. I know there are people who advocate that, and there was the `Just Say No` campaign and everything else, but if we thought that would work, we would certainly be looking to go down that road. Our evaluation is that it is not going to 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. So what we are trying to do is equip them with credible information, so they do not wind up getting themselves into situations without a degree of knowledge."

  The likelihood of young people coming across or perhaps trying drugs is high. DrugScope would rather ensure that young people are equipped with the facts about drugs; what they are, what they look like, what they do, what the risks are so that if they do come across them, they are informed. As the introduction of D-Brief says, "no shocks, no horrors, just the truth".

  I do hope that this clarifies DrugScope's widely supported approach to drug education.

March 2002

5   Wetton, R (1997) Drug Education: Selecting Materials for Classroom Use: a Report of Research Undertaken to Inform Guidance to Teachers and Guidance to Producers and Providers (report to the Standing Conference on Drug Abuse and Drug Education Forum), London: Standing Conference on Drug Abuse. Back

6   Ramsay M, Baker P, Goulden C, Sharp C, Sondhi A (2001) Drug Misuse declared in 2000: Results from the British Crime Survey, London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate. Back

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