Pubdate: Tue, 18 Mar 2003
Source: West Australian (Australia)
Copyright: 2003 West Australian Newspapers Limited
Author:  Richard Midford
Bookmark: (Drug Education)
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


I WAS somewhat taken aback by Ms Mullins' letter (Beware stealth in drug 
debate, 11/3) which took me to task for suggesting in a recent article 
(West 1/3, "Get with it" drugs call) that drug education needed to go 
beyond telling students not to use drugs.

It would be nice if we could point out the dangers of drug use to students 
and then have them make responsible decisions not to use. Unfortunately, 
several decades of experience indicates that this does not work.  A big 
proportion of students will try alcohol, tobacco and cannabis.  Harm 
minimisation is a practical strategy that deals with this reality.

This approach does not condone or encourage drug use but seeks to reduce 
harm and keep young people safe.  Abstinence can be one way of reducing 
harm but much more can be done.  Good drug education operates at several 
levels to meet the needs of all students, including those who decide to use 
alcohol or other drugs.  It seeks to equip young people with the skills to 
make better informed or more responsible decisions.

If your teenager is going to a party where alcohol will be available, is 
the "just say no" message going to keep them safe or would you want them to 
have practical strategies for dealing with problems that may arise from 
their drinking or the drinking of others?

DR RICHARD MIDFORD, Senior research fellow, National Drug Research 
Institute, Curtin University, West Perth
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