destdrugpaper.doc - TAKING AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH TO...

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TAKING AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH TO CLASSROOM DRUG EDUCATION Helen Cahill Australian Youth Research Centre Faculty of Education The University of Melbourne [email protected] ph 83449641 The following research paper was developed for the Department of Education and  Training, Victoria in response to recommendations from the Auditor General in 2003 and to 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 Education This 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 paper argues 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 programs have 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 tactics Intuitive 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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