'JUST SAY NO' JUST DOESN'T WORK
The anti-drug use campaigns of the 1980s - the "Just say 'No'" campaign,
advocacy of zero tolerance to drug use and scare tactics- clearly were
ineffective, says Angela Lawrence.
School District 73's new-this-year Alcohol and Drug Reduction Coordinator
was in Barriere Feb. 7, talking to parents and interested community members
at Barriere Secondary. She outlined current thinking by experts in her
field, and offered continuing assistance in discussions of such issues at
Marijuana use is almost as prevalent in rural communities as in urban
centers, Lawrence told an audience of approximately 25.
Lawrence said while popular thinking has concentrated on prevention of use
of illegal drugs, the most common 'gateway' drug continues to be alcohol,
and alcohol and tobacco do far more damage to society than the illegal
drugs society is accustomed to viewing separately.
Lawrence reviewed a long list of psychoactive drugs - "those which alter
the way we think, feel and behave" - before addressing how best to talk
about them with youngsters.
She said discussions need to begin, like explanations of reproduction, when
children become curious. As youngsters approach adolescence, they need to
know more, in order to make informed decisions.
Lawrence said young people explore drug use for many reasons and with many
expectations - as rites of passage, out of curiosity, to feel better or
different, to have fun and be social, to cope, and as a response to peer
As many as 80 per cent of B.C. youth have at least experimented with
alcohol by Grade 12, she says; 40 - 50 per cent have tried marijuana while
25 per cent are smoking and 10 per cent have tried ecstasy or acid. The
list goes on. Access, Lawrence says, only gets easier.
Binge drinking is a particular concern, especially in rural areas, she states.
The good news, she notes, is that "most youth will not become addicted,
that while kids from all different backgrounds are experimenting with a
whole range of drugs, youth are resilient.
"Youth want open discussion, access to information. Young people are very
cynical about drug prevention education."
So what's a parent to do? Be informed, says Lawrence. Be honest.
Conduct discussions that invite offspring to 'process' information - ask
rather than telling.
Be consistent, be open, and listen, "something that's very hard for
parents, teachers and counselors."
Lawrence says help and information is available through the school
district, that resources such as videos may be accessed through the
schools, and that she will be implementing curriculum in the schools
beginning at the Grade 4 level.
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