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Scotland - Drugs focus shifts to drink and dope

Scotland's biggest drug education programme plans to focus on warning pupils about the dangers of alcohol and cannabis rather than class A drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Funded largely by the Scottish Government, Choices for Life discusses healthy life options and the risks pupils may face when they move to secondary schools.

The shift in emphasis comes as the scheme, run by the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, aligns itself more closely with the new curriculum.

Detective Superintendent Willie MacColl, national drugs co-ordinator for the agency, said the annual programme had reached 82 per cent of 11 and 12-year-olds. Alcohol was the biggest problem for that age group and tends to lead to further substance misuse, he said.

"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."

The campaign is focusing on cannabis, as this is seen as the initial drug of choice for pupils in their early teens and has the potential to cause brain damage.

Last month, a survey of 10,000 secondary pupils aged 13 and 15 reported a strong connection between disaffection with school and substance use.

The Government's Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey found that among drinkers, 49 per cent of 13-year-olds did not like school, in contrast to 16 per cent who had never had a drink.

Among drug-users, 28 per cent did not like school, against 10 per cent who had not used drugs. EB.

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