Failing to get message across on drugs and alcohol
READING news reports and research studies revealing the alarming increase of illicit drug use and alcohol in this country, particularly in regional communities, had me questioning our educational programs.
It seems educational interventions such as school-based programs, counter advertisements and warning labels simply do not work. However I don't accept the finger pointing, blaming schools and government agencies for the problems arising from drug and alcohol abuse.
Comments such as "schools are failing to warn children of the dangers of drugs and alcohol” don't sit right with me because I know, being a mother of teenagers and having been a teacher, students are made sufficiently aware of the effect that drugs, smoking and alcohol might have on their lives.
A recent conversation with my 18-year-old shed some light on the matter.
Even though she is mindful of the risks of binge drinking and the dangers of drugs, she noted it was commonplace and easily accessible.
As a parent this is worrying when I have discussed the dangers. I also believe I have been a positive role model as I don't smoke, I don't take drugs or drink alcohol in excess.
So why doesn't my smart, well-educated daughter see the problems? It's not as if she hasn't had access and awareness of education around the topic both at home and school.
Schools offer the most systematic way of reaching young people and are the most appropriate settings for drug and alcohol prevention programs. But to have consistent messages, good school programs must have the support of families and communities.
There's no doubt school-based education can increase knowledge and improve attitudes but the responsibility shouldn't lay wholly with schools. The classroom landscape today is more complex than ever and teachers are spending a significant amount of class time dealing with other social problems while still trying to cover the syllabus.
Prevention must focus on children before their beliefs and expectations about substance abuse are established and we must address the mental problems leading to substance abuse because I believe that's at the heart of the issue.
The Alcohol and Drug Foundation is Australia's leading organisation committed to preventing alcohol and other drug harms in our communities. It provides facts, resources and programs to prevent alcohol and other drug harm in Australian communities.