[FONT=Arial,Helvetica]STUDENTS WON'T RESPOND TO DRUGS IN SCHOOL BAN: EXPERT
A BID to achieve "no illicit drugs in school" was an unrealistic goal of the Federal Government that could alienate many young people and drug users, a national conference has heard.
A leading drugs researcher described the goal as "a slogan masquerading as an outcome", which detracted from the need to arm students with skills to make responsible decisions about drugs. "Tough slogans are easy but delivering the results is not," said Associate Professor Richard Midford, a keynote speaker at the fifth International Conference on Drugs and Young People, held in Sydney last week.
Associate Professor Midford, of the National Drug Research Institute, argued Australia needed a more effective national drug education strategy, using programs shown to reduce harm rather than those driven by moral or political agendas. "To do less is to fail the young people of Australia."
The Government's National School Drug Education Strategy, which was released in 1999 with the goal of "no illicit drugs in school", sets out principles for initiatives and funding in the area.
States and territories have primary responsibility for drug education in schools and the Government has provided $47.5 million from 1999-2000 to 2007-08 through its strategy for school drug education.
The Government said schools were critical places for drug education and that the strategy "enables abstinence from illicit drugs to be promoted to our young people as a healthy lifestyle choice".
Associate Professor Midford said while the "tough on drugs" approach was politically appealing, the push for abstinence and the employment of scare tactics about the dangers of drugs would not be appropriate for all young people.
"Parents would like their kids to abstain but the reality is a lot won't, and if all we're doing is giving an abstinence message, what are we really offering those young people who are choosing not to abstain?" Associate Professor Midford said. In 2002, national surveys of more than 20,000 secondary students showed that 25 per cent of all students aged 12 to 17 had used cannabis, and by the age of 17 about 70 per cent had consumed alcohol in the month before being surveyed. [/FONT]