He was speaking at the launch of the Scottish School Board Association's anti-drugs campaign at the Education Scotland '96 exhibition sponsored by The TES Scotland in Glasgow.
"The objective is to equip pupils with the skills, knowledge and attitudes they will need to make well-informed judgments about their lifestyle.
"But we need to get across the message that there is no safe way to take drugs. We need a grassroots programme to change the whole culture in Scotland, " Lord James said.
The SSBA drug awareness campaign, which is intended to provide parents with information to help them play their part in fighting the problem, includes posters showing different types of drugs and booklets on how to recognise tell-tale signs of drug use in young people. These are now being be distributed to schools.
As part of the campaign Lord James also launched a songwriting competition for pupils aged 10-16, with drugs as the theme. The eight winning finalists will take part in a concert in December. A range of musical instruments have been put up as prizes.
The extent of drug abuse was highlighted last week by a survey of Glasgow schools. It revealed that almost 45 per cent of pupils had sampled drugs, one in three had smoked cannabis, but only 7 per cent had taken the rave drug ecstasy.
Peter Glanton, principal guidance teacher at Dumfries High School, said society had come "terrifyingly close" to accepting drugs as a condition of modern life and of simply "crossing our fingers and hoping the next victim will not be our own child". He described the serious difficulties encountered by a number of his pupils because of drugs.