Updated: Aug 8
Why do they need to learn about drugs education some may say? well it’s quite simple because in this day and age young people are willing to try substances. Of course, not all of them but some are willing to try it even if it’s just to see what all the fuss is about. The thing you need to remember where young people are concerned is that they generally don’t like being told what to do, even if they know what they’re being told is for their own good. Some call this as young people being rebellious, or some say they just don’t care about the consequences but whatever the reason lecturing to young people about why they should not take drugs simply doesn’t work. What did you say? Doesn’t work! Yes, it doesn’t! Telling young people not to take drugs went out with the just say no (Grange Hill days for those old enough to remember!) campaigns which was back in the early 90’s.
Drugs education is vital because whether we like it or not, young people simply have more access to it thanks to the advancement of technology i.e smart phones, tablets, laptops, you name it. Ordering drugs online is as easy as ordering a take away and whatever choice of drug you order, it can be with you within 15 minutes. For those who think that you need to gain access to the dark web in order to get drugs I say this... it is far EASIER than you think, as just going on sites such as e-bay, Amazon, Along with other not so well known websites are there for all to see and I haven’t even mentioned social media such as Facebook, Instagram or the current favourite amongst young people such as snap chat. Drug dealers have found ways to beat the algorithms that social media companies use on their sites in order to sell their drugs to anyone, it’s all about knowing where to look. Young people misuse such substances for a variety of reasons from peer pressure, to self-medicating due to wanting to forget what crap they’re dealing with, like problems at home or bullying, to just wanting to experiment with their friends. If young people are not being exposed to drugs from their friends or social media then look no further then tv soaps like Eastenders to Hollyoaks where you will see household characters like Phil Mitchell as an alcoholic to Ste snorting cocaine up his nose every time they’re life turns to shit and let’s not forget programmes like Geordie Shore which practically glamorises drunken behaviour and just to confirm yes alcohol is a drug for those who still think otherwise. And let’s not forget shows like Narcos or Breaking Bad and the rest, all readily available to be streamed to our tv’s and other smart devices at the touch of a few buttons.
Now working within the substance misuse field for the 10 years I’m sorry to say I have seen a lot of young people who have needed support around their substance misuse. I have seen families torn apart because of substance misuse be it due to the child or a family member, people from all sorts of colourful backgrounds, families who are financially well off to families on the opposite scale. No matter what, the result is nearly always the same, going down the route of misusing substances can lead to dire consequences for the individual and their family. We’ve all heard in the news about gangs ( a word I feel is used too much in my opinion as not every group of young people means that they are a gang) on gang violence to the current new buzz words ‘County Lines’. County lines is where groups or gangs are using adults or young vulnerable people (some as young as 8 or 9 years old) to carry and sell drugs from borough to borough or across county lines and unfortunately this has been going on for decades, definitely since when I was a young teenager although it never made it to news channels back then, neither did the local authorities feel that all professionals working with young people needed to be trained on county lines but as a result of this illegal practice reaching affluent areas coupled with the fact that thousands more young people are being sucked into this dangerous way of life, we see county lines making big headlines across the news channels and not to mention cropping up in safeguarding reports due to young people going missing. As a result of such things happening this is why it is so important that young people have access to good, quality drugs education and preferably taught by a drugs specialist as we in the drugs field are better placed to answer the type of difficult questions that young people will ask around this troublesome topic. Within drugs education you can discuss with young people the topics around gang violence, county lines, child sexual exploitation (CSE) and many more as they can all be linked to substance misuse.
Teaching drugs education within a PSHE lesson is a good way to help prepare a young person on the effects of substance misuse as well as looking at the associated risks. In this blog I have purposely used both the word drugs and substances due to the fact that there are young people out there who will not necessarily understand the word substances but will definitely understand the word drugs so I make no apology for doing that because this is also an ongoing problem I see when some adults try to talk to young people about the dangers of drugs. Using the wrong terminology, lecturing, having teachers especially those who do not know much about drugs (especially those uncomfortable with discussing it) or using the police to get the message across to young people generally does not work. By having a drugs specialist being able to engage with young people in such a way where you give them the full account of the consequences of misusing substances coupled with harm reduction advice is key to helping a young person build resilience as well as having the right information which means they are better informed to make the right choices will go down much better for them. We also can’t forget that there are people out there travelling up and down the country doing talks in schools about their own bad experience with substances. This is very useful as it gives a young person a good insight of the hidden dangers of substance misuse as well as the impact on the rest of the family. People who do talks about their substance misuse in schools generally go down well with young people as they are hear first-hand what it is really like to live with an addiction, the sadness and the real life pain that comes with it; the experience they get from it can be immeasurable. I think at this point I should make clear that I am not saying if a young person has access to drugs education then this means that they will never touch drugs or even become immune to being addicted to drugs. For a start the impact of drugs education is not an easy thing to measure but I am simply saying that drug education can contribute towards decreased harm and increased safety for young people, their families and communities.