Don't be a drug casualty

27th September 1996 at 01:00
Fife Health Board is to set up a working group on drugs education that will work with the local education authority.

The group controversially intends taking on board the views of 14 to 18-year-olds on strategies of "harm minimisation" which emerged in a study carried out by Fife Healthcare NHS Trust. Annabel Foulger, the area health promotion specialist, says the group will look at "the big picture".

The message from the Fife Healthcare report is that teenagers distinguish between cannabis and ecstasy, for example, and hard drugs such as heroin.

Ms Foulger said young people were not receptive to blanket campaigns with negative messages. "They perceive these to be biased so they get ignored. The key thing is to get over the barrier of believability." She added: "We do not push the legality line but say that, if you are going to use drugs, this is what you should do. It is about harm minimisation."

Teenagers in the study stressed the importance they attached to peer education and to information from their parents. Peer education groups and parent education groups will therefore receive further encouragement.

Another key message was the importance young people placed on beginning drugs education as early as possible; primary school teaching materials are to be reviewed. "There are materials which are very good," Ms Foulger said. "We want to make sure they are used more widely."

A study of randomly selected first and fourth-year pupils undertaken by Fife Health Research confirmed that cannabis is the most frequently used drug: 48 per cent of fourth-year pupils said they had used it more than once.

Some 30 per cent of both groups said access to drugs in schools was easy. Ms Foulger cautioned that young people may exaggerate the position and said: "Schools should not overreact but quietly review the situation."

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