Government expands ‘evidence-based’ drugs education

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Public Health England (PHE) has announced a new three-year contract for Mentor UK to expand its ADEPIS education programme to more schools and community settings. ADEPIS, which stands for Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Service, marks a ‘significant move away’ from ‘hard-hitting’ messages that risk proving counter-productive when trying to change young people’s behaviour and attitudes, the government says.

The programme, which is jointly funded by PHE and the Home Office, focuses instead on building young people’s life skills and helping them to develop ‘positive, lasting’ behaviours. While the numbers of children drinking, smoking and taking drugs are in decline, instilling healthy habits and behaviours at an early age is nevertheless ‘shown to have a positive life-long influence’, the government states, with cannabis and NPS presenting ongoing challenges for prevention work.

Mentor UK will receive £80,000 a year over the three-year period, with ADEPIS recently cited as a ‘prime example of good practice’ in UNESCO’s Education sector responses to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs report. It signals ‘a strategic break from the past where some educators lacked support about how to convince young people about the harms of drugs and alcohol’, said the charity’s chief executive, Michael O’Toole. ‘We need to promote a more evidence-based approach to prevention if it is to be effective.’

‘We now have stronger evidence on what works to educate and influence young people’s attitudes and behaviour on drugs and alcohol,’ said PHE’s director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor. ‘While encouragingly young people’s use of drugs and alcohol continues to fall, the more common use of cannabis and the emerging risks from new psychoactive substances remains a concern. I urge all local areas to support the use of the excellent ADEPIS programme in their schools and among community prevention workers.’

UNESCO report at en.unesco.org