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Drug scheme to focus on cannabis

Education programme will align itself with the curriculum and spread healthy lifestyle message

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Education programme will align itself with the curriculum and spread healthy lifestyle message

Scotland's biggest drug education programme, Choices for Life, is to undergo its own rehabilitation programme.

It plans to take the alcohol abuse message to P7 pupils and emphasise the dangers of cannabis to the early secondary years, as opposed to other illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Cannabis, which poses a risk of brain damage, is seen as the initial drug of choice for pupils in their early teens.

The shift in emphasis comes as the programme, which is run by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA), aligns itself more closely with A Curriculum for Excellence.

Detective Superintendent Willie MacColl, national drugs co-ordinator for the SCDEA, said the annual Choices for Life programme had reached 82 per cent of P7 pupils this year.

Alcohol is the biggest issue for the age group, he said, and it tends to lead to further substance misuse.

"If kids are swigging a bottle of Buckfast at the age of 12, it's a waste of time telling them their pals aren't doing it," Mr MacColl said. "That's why we need to get in early and deal with local issues."

It is also important to educate parents and carers to understand how their actions can influence their children, he added.

Funded largely by the Scottish Government, Choices for Life is a hard- hitting but fun programme, delivered on stage by pop stars, a drama company and DJs, about making healthy life choices and the risks youngsters might face when they move to secondary school.

Its organisers have been told the programme's funding is contingent on realigning its messages more closely with the new curriculum.

Mr MacColl accepted that his agency could not operate with schools on a "standalone" basis and said the programme would now place greater emphasis on healthy life choices for pupils, as well as tackling negative peer pressure.

"We have been competing in the past against other themes out there in the curriculum, but we now have opportunities to develop them and link them with other curricular areas," he said.

The SCDEA has been working with Learning and Teaching Scotland and other agencies to produce cross-curricular support materials and exemplars for use in schools.

Last month, a major lifestyle survey of 10,000 secondary pupils aged 13 and 15 in S2 and S4 found a strong connection between their disaffection with school and the prevalence of their substance use.

The Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey, published by the Government, found that, among smokers, 60 per cent of 13- year-olds who smoked regularly (at least one cigarette a week) did not like school compared with only 24 per cent of non-smokers. For 15-year- olds, the respective figures were 61 per cent and 31 per cent.

Among drinkers, 49 per cent of 13-year-olds did not like school in contrast to just 16 per cent who had never had a drink. Among those who had used drugs in the past month, 28 per cent did not like school, against 10 per cent of those who had never used drugs.

The survey also showed that 20 per cent of 15-year-olds and 5 per cent of 13-year-olds reported they had used drugs in the past year.

By far the most common drug taken was cannabis.

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