THE first challenge that colleges face in tackling drugs is to admit they may have a problem, says Keith Hellawell, UK drugs tsars.
While many college managers recognise drugs are prevalent in the wider community, there is still a tendency to hope they do not affect the college or - if they do - that nobody finds out about it.
"It is highly likely that people in colleges and universities will be using drugs," stresses Mr Hellawell, who has just launched his second annual report.
This will reveal the progress Labour is making towards cutting cocaine and heroin use among under-25s by 25 per cent by 2005, and by 50 per cent by 2008.
Most students taking drugs probably smoke cannabis - usually outside the college. If they are keen on dance music, it is likely that they have sampled ecstasy.
"They are not excluded from the drugs because they are in further or higher education," e adds. "Part of my task is to lift the stone and accept there is a problem and try to sweep away that ignorance."
A breakthrough came when the Department for Education and Employment insisted on drugs education in schools - but only in the last two years.
A recent inspectors' report showed 93 per cent of secondary and 75 per cent of primary schools have drugs education policies. But there is no similar requirement for FE colleges. "The challenge is how to get to that group," says Mr Hellawell.
While he knows some colleges fear that discussing drugs could generate bad publicity, he wants them to realise that many parents would be alarmed if drugs education was not on the timetable.
The Government is planning a national drugs awareness campaign aimed at over-16s.
"I would be delighted to talk to principals of FE colleges and dispel a few myths," Mr Hellawell says.