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close this bookDrug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)
close this folderIV. Drug Prevention in some European Countries: A Review of Policies and Programmes
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The Netherlands

· Drug policy. The global objective of Dutch drug policy over the last 15 years has been the "normalisation" of drug abuse problems, which means treating drug users as far as possible as "normal" citizens, to whom "normal" demands are made and to whom "normal" chances for living should be offered and who are considered to be responsible people, subject to the same rules as the rest of society. There should be no prosecution of drug users because they use "illegal" drugs but, on the other hand, drug users who commit crimes will have to face the consequences of their acts. This does not mean that the Dutch do not carry out any law enforcement or implement a control policy. The penalties for trafficking in heroin and cocaine, for example, have been increased from 4 years to 12 years imprisonment. New laws exist to trace, freeze and confiscate assets acquired from the proceeds of drug related crimes.

Today there is general consensus among Dutch prevention officials on the main features and principles of drug prevention which has to be developed on a broad base, not simply at the level of publicity campaigns and information. It is generally accepted that drug education should begin in primary schools, at the age of 10, with alcohol and tobacco education. These educational efforts should be repeated, and include cannabis education during the first years of secondary school, where young people are in a critical phase of their psychological development, exposed to peer pressure and media influences. In higher secondary schools, alcohol, tobacco and cannabis education should be repeated, and include other drugs.

Besides primary prevention programmes, there is now a movement towards secondary prevention programmes. This means that prevention officers are now faced with problems such as, how to contact high risk groups, how to motivate them for education and information, how to communicate with minority groups, with school drop outs etc. Those groups often have no institutional relations, and cannot be contacted through community organisations. Therefore, there is a need to develop local and regional networks of drug prevention specialists, cooperating with community institutions (schools, youth clubs, childcare centres, local police etc.) to create appropriate educational and communication techniques which will permit contact with populations at risk.

· Mass media campaigns. Mass media, especially media campaigns against drug abuse, have played a minor role in Dutch prevention compared to those for alcohol and tobacco prevention 36). The most striking example has been the "What everybody ought to know about drugs" carnpaign, carried out in the eighties, the main goal of which was to educate parents and educators about drugs and drug abuse. The campaign designers assumed that the social environment of experimenting drug users is usually badly informed and mostly reacts wrongly to drug abuse. The campaign was aimed at inciting parents to talk more openly with their children about drugs, and before it started, interviews were conducted with parents to determine the tonality and style of the campaign. It transpired that parents were not motivated by a campaign suggesting that their children could be involved in drug abuse and it was therefore decided to design a low-key communication campaign avoiding pictures of needles, bad-looking youngsters etc. 37).

36) Buisman. W. R. Mass Media and Drug Abuse Prevention in the Netherlands. paper presented at the 1st International Drug Abuse Prevention Research Symposium. Lexington. K.Y. USAOctober 20-23 1991

37) See Note. 5

There were two phases to the campaign. Striking headlines were slightly emotionally charged ("Fear is a bad advisor, let's talk about drugs"). The written press drew its readers' attention to the availability of receiving a free booklet on drugs containing objective, factual information, written in an easy, but serious style in order to eliminate fear and myths. The booklet also included two examples of discussions between parents and children to illustrate appropriate communication. Since the start of the campaign, more than 500.000 copies of the booklet have been distributed. In line with the main principle of the "What everybody ought to know about drugs" campaign, to educate the social circle of drug users, a few years later a series of six television and radio programmes was broadcast on Dutch National Educational Television (40). Part of the series has been published in a small education handbook for parents and educators.

40) Van Amerongen, R. Cinderella's Portrait: some observations on Dutch Drug Prevention Policy. Paper presented at the French-Dutch Drug Prevention Symposium. Paris, France. 1986

More recently, a Cocaine Prevention Campaign was initiated by the Jellinek Treatment and Prevention Centre in Amsterdam. The main aim of this campaign was to change the attitudes of local youngsters heavily involved in disco-dancing towards cocaine-experimentation. In the first stage of the programme, a special campaign was directed towards correcting the general belief of many youngsters that cocaine is a safe drug when used carefully. Large and striking posters and information booklets were mailed to discotheques, coffee shops, trendy youth bars and youth-centres. The slogan of the campaign was "Coke, the white hammer" (copying a popular pro-milk drinking campaign "Milk, the white motor"). The second stage of this campaign tried to change the belief that cocaine use increases a youngster's status with his peer group ("Cocaine, the illusion of being strong"). In both stages of the campaign, much attention was generated in the mass media, with free publicity on television, radio, newspapers and magazines.

Three video clips were produced for risk groups frequenting youth centres, coffee shops and youth care institutions. Although no large-scale evaluation was conducted, the use of cocaine in Amsterdam decreased from 1.6% in 1987 to 1.3% in 1990.

· School, community and other prevention programmes. By far the greater part of drug education activities are planned and carried out by trained drug education specialists working in nearly all the large and medium-sized towns and local communities. Their main task is to train and advise key-persons or intermediaries who work with young-people-risk groups, ethnic minority groups, youth clubs, young people in care, young prisoners and, of course students and pupils in schools. The Dutch drug education system applies the "teaching the teachers" model, both in primary and secondary prevention, but in practice, courses are provided for a broad category of intermediaries in school, youth work police, prison, childcare settings. These courses last several days, and the current policy is to include drug education and drug intervention training for all these different intermediaries, who are also offered educational and audio-visual materials for use in their own prevention activities.

One important area of drug prevention is, of course, school drug prevention. To some extent a similar development can be observed as in the UK In the beginning there was strong emphasis on factual drug education "Give them the naked facts on drugs". Later the focus changed and was directed towards a person-oriented, value clarification based approach. In the late eighties the peer resistance and skills development approaches were adopted. The latter are still popular, but there is a tendency to offer the education market whatever they most appreciate. The main criterion is still that only qualitative materials are marketed to schools. However, this does not mean that teachers can only choose between types of materials. There are also large-scale training projects for teachers, both at primary and secondary school levels, which are developed nationally, but carried out locally, adjusted to the specific demands of local schools.

Among many other initiatives and drug education programmes, we should mention a specific "theatre drug education" project, called "Kick-seekers" which is aimed at secondary school children, aged 14-18, who are presumed to be at risk of becoming involved in drug use. Based on the assumption that many young people are looking for kicks, often to prevent feelings of depression, disappointment and disapproval, the young actors depict real-life situations and tell of their own search for friendship and acceptance in connection to drinking, smoking and sniffing. After watching the play, all schools having participated in the project were invited to join a chat show, in which the actors discuss and share their experiences and opinions with the public.

· Training programmes for health professionals. During the early eighties, much attention in drug prevention was paid to health professionals, especially physicians, several training courses on drug problems being offered both in undergraduate and post-graduate medical training (41). In most Dutch medical schools, courses in substance-abuse problems are taught in the second or third year. Attention is paid to knowledge and attitudes of medical students, their own use of drugs, including alcohol, aspects of early intervention and detection. In the training for general family physicians, a module of substance abuse has been integrated into the curriculum. Similar courses are being developed for the vocational training of nursing staff and social workers.

41) Lange. W. M. Alcohol Consumption and Alcohol-related Problems in the Netherlands Paper presented at the Who Working Group on the Role of Physicians in Alcohol Abuse Prevention. Oslo, 26-29 August 1986

· Evaluation of drug prevention in the Netherlands. As with the general international situation, it is difficult to determine the results and effects of the Dutch drug prevention programmes. However, there has been some evaluation. For example, an assessment of the "What everybody ought to know about drugs" campaign indicated that 50% of the respondents reported that they had become more interested in the problem of drug use, about 75% had developed better attitudes towards open communication on drug use, and another 35% indicated that they had changed their behaviour and discussed drug problems with friends or family members 42). Another study on school drug education indicated that a person-oriented approach is to be preferred to a factual or alarmist approach (De Haes, (43)). Yet another study indicated that educated pupils in primary school used less alcohol and drugs than a control group (Van de Wijngaart, (44)).

42) See Note. 5

43) De Haes. W.F.M. & J.H. Schuurman. Results of an Evaluation Study of Three Drug Education Methods. In: International Journal of Health Education. 1975. 18 (Suppl) pp. 1-16

44) See Note. 36