Just say er. . .no?

29th March 1996 at 00:00
Drugs Issues for Schools, By Colin Chapman. Pounds 12. Drug Capsules, Pounds 6.50. Your Project on Drugs, 75p, D-Mag 2, Pounds 2.50 (Pounds 12.50 for 25), All by Julian Cohen.

Drugs - your questions answered, Pounds 2.50. All from ISDD, Waterbridge House, 32-36 Loman Street, London SE1 OEE Age range 11-plus. Smoking, alcohol and Party Drugs - Role Play and Drama Activities, By Pauline Maskell, Age range 16 - 18. Talking About Drugs, By Anna Power, Age range 16 - 18, Pounds 50 each, Daniels, 38 Cambridge Place, Cambridge CB2 LNS

Production of drug education materials has become a growth industry. But, says Terry Brown, they're not all worthwhile. The new emphasis on education in the Government's three-year strategy to tackle drug use has spawned a variety of new and revised materials. The problem for schools is to decide which ones are worthwhile.

Current thinking accepts that no educational approach has been proved to discourage young people from experimenting with drugs, and some strategies with a narrow focus may actually encourage them. Materials which consider attitudes, provide accurate, comprehensive, up-to-date and unbiased information, and develop appropriate skills will contribute most to young people's ability to cope with drug situations.

The latest publications from the Institute for the Study of Drug Dependence reinforce its reputation for integrity and objectivity in providing information about drugs. Drugs Issues for Schools is a readable book which takes a holistic view of drug use and offers a framework for a whole-school policy to tackle drug-taking. There are sections on drug education, health and social welfare, why people take drugs, trends in adolescent drug use, and drug information, providing a comprehensive and succinct overview.

Your Project on Drugs is a colourful booklet which provides detailed suggestions for 10 different projects for secondary schools. It looks at different attitudes to drugs and develops skills such as assessing sources of information, decision-making and finding help.

D-Mag 2 has a friendly, non-judgemental, teenage magazine style. It has been revised following requests for accounts of real experiences and is now even more comprehensive. Drug Capsules is a double-sided A4 sheet giving complete and up-to-date information on 13 drugs, including legal status, prevalence and availability, and short and long-term use.

Drugs - your questions answered is a 140-page, A5 book aimed at 16 to 18-year-olds doing projects or dissertations. It brings together articles and extracts from a variety of publications to answer some of the most common questions. The chapters cover information and myths about drugs, drug users, crime, and society's responses to drug use, as well as the arguments for and against legalising prohibited substances.

Smoking, Alcohol and Party Drugs - Role Play and Drama Activities is a collection of photocopiable activities for 16-year-olds and above. Teachers can choose from material on groupwork, drug information, drama techniques and relaxation skills.

The author has a sound grasp of groupwork, drama and the biochemistry of drug use, but the file is weak on questions of attitudes or skills. The information is either too technical to be comprehensible, too vague to be helpful, and sometimes inaccurate. The pack tries to tackle too many areas, rather than focusing on helping teachers develop confidence with drama techniques or drug education.

Talking About Drugs offers introductory drug information, followed by activities and visual resources. It aims to discourage drug use, but the activities are ill-defined and difficult to follow. The information is incomplete, biased and inaccurate. The visual resources are a mixture of simplistic cartoon strips, truefalse quizzes, a word search and a crossword, all of which have dubious educational value and little chance of success with students.

The Department for Education and Employment and the School Curriculum Assessment Authority's approach to drug education is to provide comprehensive, unbiased and accurate information which young people can use to make informed decisions. A broad harm-reduction approach must include "just saying no" to resources which fail to meet these criteria.

Terry Brown was a consultant writer for SCAA's curriculum guidance on drug education.

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