What is school drug education?
Effective school drug education focuses on skills development and provides students with the capacity to make healthier and more responsible decisions for their own and others’ safety and wellbeing.
We have moved a long way from the traditional approach to drug education, which focused mainly on the provision of information about drugs and their possible harmful consequences. While still including this, best practice drug education explores and develops student’s drug-related knowledge, skills, attitudes and values through the use of inclusive and interactive teaching strategies.
It fosters resilience through nurturing a sense of belonging and connectedness both to the school and to the broader community and works to reduce the harms from drug use.
What is a Harm Minimisation approach to drug education?
National and State strategy supports a harm minimisation approach. In school drug education, this approach acknowledges that drug use is complex and that students can be affected by their own drug use or the drug use of others.
It aims to reduce the harms associated with the use and to promote healthier, alternative behaviours. A harm minimisation approach does not condone or encourage drug use.
It promotes non-use and delayed use of all drugs, and is an inclusive approach that is supportive of young people who are not using drugs, those who may be experimenting with drugs and those who may be experiencing issues related to drug use.
When should drug education start?
Prevention education is best introduced when the prevalence of use of the particular drug is still low and before most young people are exposed to the possibility of use.
It is therefore important that drug education is started in early childhood, is age-appropriate and continues through a child’s years of schooling in order to build their knowledge, skills and experiences and to bring about effective behaviour change.
There are three critical phases when the intervention effects of drug education are most likely to be optimised and include:
• Phase 1: Inoculation which is when children are first exposed to certain drugs.
• Phase 2: Early relevancy which is where information and skills may have practical application in real life.
• Phase 3: Later relevancy which is when the prevalence of alcohol and drug use increases and the context of use changes.
The early adolescence years are a crucial phase where schools need to implement both resilience and drug education programs as this is when young people are more likely faced with influences to use both licit and illicit drugs.
Engaging students in alcohol and drug education programs assist them to make healthier and safer choices, identify high-risk situations, and develop a range of strategies to prepare them for challenging situations. A consistent message given to young people is that there is no safe level of drug use and that any drug has the potential to cause harm.
What content is covered in drug education programs?
At NASHS, drug education is aligned to the Western Australian Curriculum and includes strategies that can develop a range of skills such as decision making, help-seeking and problem-solving. NASHS Health teachers use the SDERA (School Drug Education & Road Aware) Challenges & Choices resources.
In the secondary years, the Western Australian Curriculum focus is on legal drugs such as alcohol, caffeine (energy drinks), tobacco, over-the-counter and prescription medicines, illegal drugs such as cannabis, synthetic cannabis, and other illicit drugs including methamphetamines.
Students also continue to explore more broadly the range of factors that can contribute to a drug use experience. This promotes an understanding that the context in which drug use occurs can either exacerbate or reduce the risks of harm. This provides the opportunity for students to identify how potential harms can be avoided or reduced and to develop or extend the skills that assist with this.
What can parents do?
Parents and carers can be the most important influence in a child’s life. Students who are able to have honest & factual conversations about drug issues at home are better equipped to deal with drug-related situations if they arise.
The family information sheets below are provided by SDERA and cover a range of topics that parents can use as a guide when talking with their children.