AUSTRALIA: THE state's secondary schools will dump their "just say no" approach to drug and alcohol education as part of a radical new attack on teen boozing and drug taking.
Students will practise first aid for overdoses, pour standard drinks, and study drug-free ways to achieve a "high", in a new curriculum.
The Government will roll out the program, for year 8 and 9 students, this year after a successful three-year trial in 21 Victorian schools.
The award-winning trial found that teaching teenagers about alcohol - rather than demanding abstinence - was the most effective way of cutting binge drinking rates.
And it is believed the same tactics will work for drug use and other risk-taking behaviour.
"This marks a major departure from the 'just say no' practices of the past," Education Minister Martin Dixon said.
"The program is based on the most up to date, evidence-based research and is focused on building resilience in young people so they can make informed and safe decisions," the Education Minister said.
The trial, conducted by the Education Department and two universities, found lessons focusing on "harm reduction" - instead of strict "abstinence" from alcohol - had more success cutting excessive drinking rates by teens.
While the number of students initially experimenting with alcohol did not change, "risky" levels of drinking decreased, along with the number of teenagers actively "planning to get drunk".
Students involved in the trial were also more likely to discuss alcohol and drugs with their parents.
"This was achieved even though the students were not persuaded against taking up drinking," according to the trial summary.
"Abstinence and reduced use have been the criteria for success and . . . the approach as a whole has not been successful in meeting these goals".
Mr Dixon has rubber-stamped the trial curriculum - 18 classes dedicated to drug and alcohol education in years 8 and 9 - for all Victorian public schools.
"Victoria is leading the way when it comes to creating drug education programs that have a real and positive impact on students," he said.
The classes will also include lessons on "standing up for yourself" and "refusal skills".
The program was recognised for "excellence in prevention and community education" at last month's National Drug and Alcohol Awards, sponsored by groups including the Australian Drug Foundation and the Australian National Council on Drugs.
The researchers plan to keep in touch with the 1750 students involved in the trial, to monitor the effect of the "harm minimisation" lessons.
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