Canvassing for Opinion - aka "Blairs Brain on Cannabis"

IMHO prohibition sentiment requires inherent addiction to status quo, an incapacity to visualise beyond the here and now and a desperate desire to know others might feel the same... Reform is not revolutionary, rather it is evolutionary. Having survived banging your head against a brick wall the evolutionist relishes having stopped. / Blair

Monday, May 29, 2006

Drug education on the rocks

After a veritable no-show by educators and health promotion/harm preventionists  at the (southisland) Drug Foundation hui held at the Christchurch Avon Holiday Inn one can hardly be surprised to hear just how systemicaly impaired the debate around drug policy and youth is. /Blair

ABC Online

ABC Online

PM - Youth survey finds anti-drugs message failing to get through

[This is the print version of story]

PM - Friday, 26 May , 2006  18:42:00

Reporter: Simon Lauder

MARK COLVIN: There's further proof today that not all government anti-drug messages are having that much effect on young people.

They are mostly aware of the dangers of hard drugs like heroin, but a major national survey of teenagers shows that most don't think alcohol and marijuana are actually harmful.

Simon Lauder reports.

SIMON LAUDER: For a teenager determined to go against their parents pleas to just say no, there's a lot to choose from.

(Sound of 'Feelgood Hit of the Summer', Queens of the Stone Age: "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.")

SIMON LAUDER: Early results of a national study of teenagers' attitudes to drugs were presented to an international conference in Sydney today.

Researchers surveyed 1,800 12 to 18 year olds - people like 16-year-old Victor and his mates.

VOX POP 1: The safest drugs are marijuana, because you know, it makes you high but it doesn't actually damage your brain.

VOX POP 2: Marijuana some good shit.

SIMON LAUDER: Adolescent psychiatrist, Professor Graham Martin, from Queensland University, headed the study, which found most teenagers think the most readily available drugs to them are acceptable and not a health risk.

And that's a worry, says Professor Martin, because alcohol and marijuana use often leads teenagers to other drugs.

GRAHAM MARTIN: Clearly if you are using substances and those substances have some kind of impact on your brain, and you like whatever that impact is, you are probably more likely to go on and try something else.

So if alcohol has a good effect on you and you're around a party scene you're likely to take ecstasy, and if you take that you might like to get into something else as well.

So there is that kind of progression that worries us. My real worry is that alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis are sort of acceptable and all three of those really provide young people with an understanding that it's okay to use substances to alter your brain.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor Martin says teenagers are more likely to use drugs if they have a disposable income - money to burn. He also found young people don't respond well to being told what to do.

That's a point the Federal Government advisory group on drugs, which commissioned the study, says it's its keen to take on board.

Gino Vumbaca is the Executive Officer of the Australian National Council on Drugs.

GINO VUMBACA: I don't think anyone actually advocates a just say no approach anymore, but a lot of young people who experiment with drugs may find it pleasurable and think like, well, what's all this about it being harmful and damaging and dangerous?

But addiction and dependence and drug problems creep up on people, you know, they don't just appear on the first time you use a drug, that's fairly rare, it's something that builds over time.

SIMON LAUDER: Professor Martin's study didn't just survey teenagers on drugs, it also surveyed more than 100 organisations whose job it is to provide services to help them.

GRAHAM MARTIN: Organisations that are underfunded, struggling against the odds, with a very poor database, and not much support to understand the available evidence. So they're really struggling.

SIMON LAUDER: Going against the survey results is 19-year old Tim, who as a medical student may know more than your average teenager about the effects of drugs. He has his own theory on why teenagers are obsessed with alcohol.

VOX POP 3: I think that's socially entrenched, and I think that's where authorities will always run into problems in trying to curb drinking, when it's almost a cultural thing.

(Sound of 'Feelgood hit of the Summer', Queens of the Stone Age: "Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol.")

MARK COLVIN: 19-year old Tim, ending that report from Simon Lauder.

© 2006 Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Blair Anderson
ph (643) 389 4065
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