Drug culture has changed and so have young people... professionals need to keep up

The face of drug and alcohol consumption has changed dramatically in the past few years and so too have young people... but the way drug and alcohol education are delivered hasn't changed much at all since the 80's!

Though the issues are still present in todays society we are no longer facing the wide spread abuse of glue sniffing of the 80's, the heroin epidemic of the 80's and 90's, or the prevalence of alarming binge drinking seen in 00's. As positive as this sounds the issues have evolved and changed in the same way each generation of young people do.

Today's generation of young people are a totally new entity and are one that us as adults and professionals cant entirely liken ourselves too and this is down to the dominance of social media. When it comes to drugs young people are more clued up than ever - gone are the days of Chinese whispers on the playground where your friend told you a horror story of their 'mate' taking a drug and hallucinating that they are being chased by an orange. They have constant 24 hour access to facts and myths (Wikipedia is a blessing and a curse,) 24 hour access to their friends, review sites in which people record and rate their experiences whilst under the influence, pre and post watershed television programmes featuring substance use and abuse including but not limited to soap operas that are often watched by families to name but a few.

On occasion it comes to the attention of the media that a politician or celebrity have had skeletons pulled out of their closets which include 'shocking' and 'heinous' claims that they smoked cannabis in their youth and this is either dealt with by totally denying the accusation or issuing a grovelling apology to the nation. Today's generation will not have that luxury in years to come so long as comments and photographs continue to be posted on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and the social media of the future. We are beginning to see the devastating effect 'Revenge Porn' is having and I predict similar things happening in the future with these photographs and comments which include proof of drug use no matter how minor.

This is why drug education needs to change. We no longer need to be showing the young people grainy American videos with a sad looking mother who had lost her son - as tragic as that is it simply lacks the impact needed as is a waste of a great opportunity. These videos have about as much of an impact as the classic anecdote regarding the boy that cut his head open by rocking back on his chair. Instead lets focus on teaching them how to keep themselves safe. We know that by giving young people an hours worth of drug education may not necessarily stop them from using substances altogether but it may encourage them to use in a safer way in future. If this means they choose somewhere a little less secluded or are not frightened to call 999 in an emergency then we have safe guarded them.

In order to deliver drug education or to effectively deal with drug related issues you do not need to be an expert. The first thing I learned about teaching drug education was never to lie to the young people if you don't know an answer... like a blood hound sniffs out fear they can sniff out your lies and you lose all credibility.

Due to cuts and pressures on professionals time and workloads it is likely that in the future teachers, social workers, social care staff, youth workers, youth offending officers or anybody working in the children's workforce will deliver elements of drug education to young people. Please ensure you know enough to make an impact... no matter how small.

For more information or to book drug education sessions for either staff or young people please contact me.

Amy Carter