|Drug Education: Programmes and Methodology - An Overview of Opportunities for Drug Prevention (EC - UNESCO, 1995, 41 p.)|
This report has described the principles, strategies, planning stages, methodology and techniques of drug education and a number of national drug prevention programmes have been analyzed. Chapter IV outlined evaluation studies conducted during the past twenty years.
On the basis of the reviews of national drug prevention policies, what conclusions can be reached?
National drug policies differ both in terms of goals and objectives, and in the implementation of preventive activities and programmes. Compared with other national drug policies, for example those of Spain, Italy, France and Greece, the differences are even greater. Not to mention the lack of drug policies in the Eastern part of Europe. On the other hand, the situation in Europe today is changing favourably with a tendency to create more convergence between national drug policies and with more exchange of experiences and programmes in the field of prevention. As mentioned in Chapter IV, in the area of school drug prevention, a number of countries have adopted adaptations of the Skills for Adolescence programme. The Health Career Prevention Programme '58), developed in the United Kingdom, has been now introduced with some changes in Denmark and Sweden. Another example is the '59) European Drug Prevention Week initiated by the European Commission, when all European Union member states participate in the preparation of a Prevention Week including national and international projects of drug abuse prevention. The first European Drug Prevention Week was organised in the autumn of 1992, with an international two-days Flag Event in London to draw public, media and political attention to. the drugs issue. The second Drug Prevention Week took place in 1994, starting again with an international Flag Event in Aachen, Germany and national drug abuse prevention events in the 12 European Union member states mass media campaigns, national conferences, press meetings, TV-programmes etc. A final example of the process of international exchange of knowledge and expertise, are the international summer schools to train health professionals (Cambridge, Amsterdam). As a model of continental cooperation in the field of drug abuse prevention, there is reason to be optimistic that this process will probably bear fruit, both for Europe and for other continents.
'58) Dorn. N&B. Norcroft. Health Careers. Teachers Manual. ISDD. London. 1983
'59) Getting the Message across, a report on the Drug Professionals' Conference, Dep. of Health, London, 1994
A general conclusion in this report might however be that, under certain conditions, drug education is effective. These conditions depend upon a number of important factors, such as:
- The current drug abuse situation in a country;
- The actual drug (prevention) policy in a country;
The current social infra-structure (school system, media network) and funds and resources available;
- The support of government, decision makers, community - and opinion leaders and the public to develop and carry out preventive activities.
Young people are the main focus and the most important target group for preventive education against drug abuse. In this respect it should be emphasized that drug education has to be rooted within a realistic perspective vis-a-vis young people. According to De Haes, young people explore different aspects of the world around them and test the values and norms of adult society. Young people, in common with adults, are not "empty vessels" with regard to drugs. They already have knowledge, attitudes and behaviours with regard to risk substances. Some young people are in contact with criminal groups, where they pick up their information on drugs. Young people are very sensitive to social conformity pressures, but neither at home, nor at school do they learn to resist these pressures. In other words, it is not only important for people working on drug education to know the facts about drugs and use of drugs, but also to be familiar with (pre)adolescent psychology and pedagogy.
Against the background of the experience acquired in Western countries with regard to drug education, what policy can be recommended to countries intending to formulate and organize preventive activities in their towns and communities?
Drug education programmes that have proven successful in Western countries should be introduced in other countries in a socially and culturally adapted fashion. Possibilities should be studied of adapting two well-known drug education programmes: Health Careers (UK) and Skills for Adolescents (USA). Both programmes have been tested and undergone international and cultural adaptation. The rationale of the Health Career Programme is to regard all health related, including drug-related, behaviour as a facet of young people's responses to their life situation and that some traditions and customs which contribute towards maintaining or improving health are contained in each social grouping. It is emphasized that neither the environmental nor the individual attitudes and behaviour approaches can stand alone, but that both aspects are important. A teacher's manual describing the programme and guiding teachers through the units of the programme, is available. The Skills for Adolescents programme, described in Chapter m, is appropriate because it is probably the most elaborated example of a peer and skills training approach that according to empirical evidence is presumed to be effective in drug prevention. Moreover, this programme has a general impact on prevention of (mental) health problems and on (mental) health promotion. The possibilities of adapting these programmes to other, different national cultures or at least, if elements of them can be culturally adapted in a flexible manner, should be studied.
An international meeting should be organised in order to present drug education programmes that have proved effective in a number of countries (for example the Health Career and Skills for Adolescents Programmes). Plenary presentations should clarify under what conditions these programmes or components of them can be adapted for introduction into other countries. In complementary workshops, the programmes might be demonstrated in more detail to the participants, who would come from prevention organisations.
A Sourcebook of Prevention Ideas, should be produced listing creative and effective prevention activities which have been enthusiastically received, for example a play, a project week on drug abuse in school, a drawing contest etc. Main criteria for selecting those prevention ideas and activities are that they should be attractive, appropriate and applicable. In situations unfavorable to common drug education programmes, this might be a good alternative. Belgium published such a sourcebook in 1987. Sometimes working with a sourcebook starts the development of a common drug education programme within the formal curriculum.
It would be worthwhile collecting a limited number of standard educational materials, for example fact sheets on drugs and model programmes of drug education, including a short description of basic elements of a drug education programme. Because a big problem in drug education tends to be the availability of materials and programmes, attention has to be paid to the selection of appropriate organizations to ensure widespread and active distribution.
Special attention should be geared to drug education training, especially in countries and regions where there is a complete lack of preventive education. Application of the "teaching the teachers" model that has proved its worth in a number of countries merits serious attention. Besides training in methods of drug education, students or teachers have to be familiarized with existing educational materials. Training should not focus only on knowledge, but also on improvement of discussion and communication skills. More attention should be paid to these issues in undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate training prograrnmes. It is important that, from the start of their training, educators are aware that they are also responsible for the health and well-being of their pupils and students. This includes drug education.
Most suggestions so far have dealt with group education methods, educational materials and programmes, training, etc. Another, more comprehensive and much broader approach to drug education, is a multimedia and multimethods approach with the characteristics of a campaign, and a planning guide to this multimethods approach could be prepared and published. Some of the main elements and stages in this approach are outlined below.
First of all, a mass media campaign is organized to heighten public awareness about a drug problem. The campaign establishes a relationship between the "quality of life" and a life-style free of drug abuse, for example, along the lines of the Scottish campaign "Be all you can be, choose life, not drugs". The main target groups would be school children, out-of-school youth, parents and community leaders. The media used to convey the message would be TV spots, radio commercials, posters, leaflets, a parents' drug information booklet "How to talk with my child about drugs". Support activities would be a press conference at the start of the campaign, drug education articles, free publicity. Main features of the total campaign would be straight messages, high quality educational materials, relating drug education in a peer and social pressure context, offering appropriate alternatives to drug use.
Finally, international organisations should participate fully in providing countries where preventive education is non-existent, or where such education needs to be enhanced, with drug education programmes that have proved effective in other countries. In this respect, it is important to bear in mind that conditions often vary widely between countries and continents. International organisations and drug education experts should therefore assist, support and facilitate the identification of existing resources and local possibilities of education for the prevention of drug abuse in countries where such assistance is needed.