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‘Hard-hitting’ approach to tackling addiction set to be dropped

New scheme focuses on building knowledge, skills and resilience to make better choices

Mark Gould

Monday, 13 March 2017

Public Health England (PHE) says a new scheme to educate children about the dangers of drug and alcohol addiction will move away from traditional “hard-hitting” approaches and instead focus on building young people's knowledge and resilience to make better choices.

Jointly funded by PHE and the Home Office, the Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Information Service (ADEPIS) programme will be delivered in schools and community prevention services across the UK.

Rosanna O’Connor, Director of Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco at PHE, said: "We now have stronger evidence on what works to educate and influence young people’s attitudes and behaviour on drugs and alcohol. The ADEPIS programme is a significant move away from the well-meaning ‘hard-hitting’ approach, which can be counter-productive, to one which focuses on building young people’s knowledge, skills and resilience to make better choices.

"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."

The programme helps equip young people with the life skills and resilience to deal with the challenges they face with alcohol and drugs. ADEPIS was developed by Mentor UK, a charity which specialises in working to prevent the misuse of alcohol and drugs among children and young people, who will also deliver the new programme at a cost of £80,000.

PHE says the funding will help Mentor UK ensure the programme is able to "evolve and expand", as well as enabling the delivery of briefings and seminars for teachers and practitioners. Almost 44,000 professionals have visited the ADEPIS website since May 2013.

While recent reports show a steep decline in rates of children and young people smoking and drinking, PHE says instilling healthy habits and behaviours at an early age is shown to have a positive life-long influence. Similarly drug misuse among young people is also declining, but cannabis remains the most commonly used drug among young people and in recent years the emergence of new psychoactive substances also raises new challenges for prevention work.

Mentor’s Chief Executive, Michael O’Toole, said: "We are delighted to continue this valuable work and to get the backing of Public Health England and the Home Office for our ADEPIS programme. I think it helps signal a strategic break from the past where some educators lacked support about how to convince young people about the harms of drugs and alcohol. We need to promote a more evidence based approach to prevention if it is to be effective, and ADEPIS does exactly that.

"Only by building children and young people’s resilience and life skills can we expect education programmes to be truly effective at preventing harms later on. It is also important to build local capacity to ensure development of effective ‘ecosystems of prevention’."

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