Hard focus on drugs
When the Government White Paper Tackling Drugs Together was published in 1995, a crucial part of the national drugs strategy was the education of young people. The Health Education Authority, which runs the national publicity campaign on behalf of the Department of Health, set up the National Drugs Helpline that November.
Since then, there has been a variety of high-profile initiatives, including an extensive advertising campaign in the youth press and on radio.
The new drug tsar, Keith Hellawell, recently launched two guides, Drugs: the Facts and The Score: Facts about Drugs. With 24 and 36 pages respectively in glossy, youth magazine format - featuring quizzes, fact files, problem pages, photo _ stories and short features - they have been professionally produced and had input from a variety of professional agencies and youngsters.
The booklets have been produced to give young people reliable information about drugs to counteract circulating myths and misinformation.
Although there is a considerable amount of information about illegal drugs, the term "drugs" is not really discussed. There is no mention of why some drugs are legal and some are illegal. The one for younger people is simplistic. The focus is on facts about substances, their effects and legal status.
A previous campaign booklet for teenagers, D- Mag, mentioned that although drug use is never safe, "it is not always as dangerous as some people make out". These new guides are not balanced.
The young people I spoke to said they found the information selective, thought they took the moral high ground and didn't say enough about harm reduction.
They could have a place in school drug education, as long as they are balanced with other works, decision-making and skills.
A Guides cost 8p and 1Op each over 250 copies, from DCOS, P0 Box 105, Sandwich, Kent C113 9BR. Tel:
01304 614731. Single copies available from the National Drugs Helpline, tel: 0800 776600.
Department of Health Stand H27 .