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In possession of the facts

Adrian King reviews a video on the hazards of drug misuse. In this 15-minute video, Joe Wood, a local drugs worker, is talking to three teenagers at home. They are curious about drugs and Joe mainly talks about those restricted by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. He describes the effects, the hazards and the possible consequences of police discovery of possession or supply of a restricted drug.

The presentation is informal, balanced and calm. Joe answers the teenagers' questions as honestly as he can and leaves behind some leaflets. Some of the information appears on screen briefly in the form of "data burst" cards, which can be frozen using the video pause control for easier reading.

The video is a little dull in its presentation, and the characters a bit dry, but there is much useful data. However, a one-off video show is likely to have little, if any, lasting influence. The success of this one will depend on the way that it is used. If it is interrupted to stimulate discussion about drugs, attitudes to their use and the situations where they may be on offer, then it could be valuable.

The reference to the law on magic mushrooms is inaccurate. It is not illegal to eat raw Liberty cap or fly agaric mushrooms although Joe says "you can't do anything with them".

I wasn't keen on the illegal drugs focus. It is only by considering all drugs and the place each has in society that a coherent picture can be formed and the inconsistencies in our laws and social attitudes addressed. An over-emphasis on illegality, danger and controls is a sure way of making pupils feel "got at" and even stop listening.

The 12-page teacher booklet is brief but direct. It provides information on common drugs of abuse, a summary of the law and basic ideas for classroom work. The drugs "spectrum" of hallucinogen-to-stimulant is sadly deficient in that it provides no place for alcohol, tranquillisers, solvents, heroin or other painkillers.

Teachers who know the basics or who purchase a resource like the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence's Drug Abuse Briefing will quickly use a more accurate series of categories to underpin their work.

This video pack will not provide everything you need to deliver drugs education, but it could bolster the drugs element of an integrated, developmental PSE programme. Judge carefully whether 10-year-olds are ready for it.

Adrian King is health education co-ordinator for Berkshire.

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