TAKING AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH TOCLASSROOM DRUG EDUCATIONHelen CahillAustralian Youth Research CentreFaculty of EducationThe University of Melbourne[email protected]ph 83449641The following research paper was developed for the Department of Education and Training, Victoria in response to recommendations from the Auditor General in 2003 andto inform the development of resources at the early and middle years. This document is not for public release.
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Taking an Evidence Based Approach to School Drug EducationThis paper addresses the question “What constitutes effective school drug education?” It draws on research that has identified the characteristics of those classroom drug education programs that have demonstrated reductions in harmful use of drugs. The paperargues that classroom drug education programs should exemplify both good pedagogy and good health promotion practice and be informed by the evidence-base relating to effective drug education. It cautions against the common pitfalls associated with intuitive approaches to drug education. This paper does not encompass a discussion of the provision of early intervention responses for those young people requiring additional support to assist them to deal with problems associated with their own or others use of drugs. Have we any evidence that drug education can work to reduce or prevent drug-related harm? Extensive research has been conducted into the efficacy of drug education programs (Dielman 1994, Dusenbury and Falco 1995, Midford 2000, Tobler 2000). Some programshave made a discernable difference in reducing the incidence of risky use around alcohol,cigarettes and cannabis. Others have shown no impact on behaviour and others again have been associated with an increased use of drugs or increased delinquency amongst the target participants (Dishion and Andrews 1995, Withers and Russell 2000). It is known then, that some programs are a good investment as a prevention strategy, others make no discernable difference, and others again have worked against the goal of reducing drug-related harm. What do we know about programs that don’t work?Scare tacticsIntuitive approaches have led in the past to the use of scare tactics in drug education. Scare tactics are based on the assumption that if we could just show how risky it is - they wouldn’t do it. Students, parents and teachers are often convinced that confronting young people with the most severe harms will deter them from using drugs. However, programs that rely on scare tactics have not shown reduction in the incidence of harmful drug use (Tobler et al 1997). There may be a number of reasons why this is so. These include a
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