Effective drug education is important because young people are faced with many influences to use both licit and illicit drugs. Education can play a counterbalancing role in shaping a normative culture of safety, moderation, and informed decision making.
Background to drug education
The Department assists Victorian schools to develop ongoing, sustainable drug education policies and programs based on a harm minimisation approach
A harm minimisation approach aims to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drugs by minimising or limiting the harms and hazards of drug use for both the community and the individual without necessarily eliminating use. It is recognised that teachers are best placed to provide young people with the skills and knowledge to make sound choices and decisions and thus teachers must be adequately trained.
Why do we need school drug education
Engaging students in drug education activities assists them to make healthy and safe choices, identifying risky situations, and developing strategies to prepare them for challenging situations. A range of resources to assist teachers in this role is available on this website.
What effective school drug education looks like
The available evidence-based suggests that effective drug education programs should:
- increase student’s knowledge, social and life skills, and refusal skills towards licit and illicit drug use
- include content relevant to young people’s experiences and interests
- contain highly interactive pedagogies that engage students in problem-solving and critical thinking
- commence activities before initial experimentation and continue as young people mature
- provide significant coverage of relevant issues complemented by follow up booster sessions
- position drug education within the broader health and personal learning curriculum that focuses, amongst other things, on mental health issues such as stress and coping
- respond to cultural and social needs of the school community
- engage parents where possible.
How schools should incorporate drug education into their curriculum
The model for drug education in Victoria is based on a whole-school approach that utilises research and evidence-based practice, effective pedagogy and encourages a positive school climate and strong partnerships.
Schools that are approaching drug education in a broadly defined curriculum appear to be making a greater impact on students. In these schools, there is recognition that drug education is more than teaching essential information in a discrete subject such as Health. Drug education includes an emphasis on:
- developing students’ life skills and protective behaviours
- promoting the range of relationships in which students can engage
- ensuring that students are connected to their schooling
- external influences such as media, family and peers.
Considering the following key documents provide the framework for planning, developing and assessing drug education curriculum:
Support for your school drug education program
Each region provides professional learning activities to teachers about learning and teaching, policy development, utilising resources and supporting student wellbeing in schools. Contact your Regional Senior Program Officer to assist you in developing your drug education plan.
Role of Central Office
The drug education team is situated within the Student Wellbeing and Health Support Division. The role of the central officers is to develop policy and resources and administer funding to schools.
Contact your Regional Senior Program Officer or the drug education team.
Family support services
Parenting Research Centre - a research and training organisation committed to developing and disseminating effective support to families facing the challenging task of raising children. Phone: (03) 8660 3500.
Parents Victoria - provides parents with a voice, presenting an organised parent perspective to State and Federal governments, educational bureaucracies and institutions, community organisations and the media. Phone: (03) 9380 2158.
DirectLine, Department of Health Victoria - provides 24-hour, seven-day counselling, information and referral services to alcohol and drug treatment support services in Victoria. Phone: 1800 888 236.
Youth Support and Advocacy Service (YSAS) - provides a range of youth-specific outreach, treatment, withdrawal, rehabilitation and support programs across Melbourne and regional Victoria. Phone: (03) 9415 8881.
The following resources provide further evidence about effective drug education:
Parents, Parties and Adolescent Alcohol Use (PDF - 354Kb) (pdf - 354.42kb) - There has been little research on parents' attitudes and behaviours specifically about hosting a party or allowing their adolescent to attend a party. This research contributes to the strong evidence-based for effective drug education and indicates the need for ongoing approaches in schools that promote partnerships with families and the community
Taking an Evidence-based Approach to Classroom Drug Education (Word - 98Kb) (doc - 117.5kb) - addresses the question ‘What constitutes effective school drug education?’. It draws on research that has identified the characteristics of those classroom drug education programs that have demonstrated reductions in the harmful use of drugs.
The Principles for School Drug Education - produced by the Commonwealth, provides a framework of core concepts and values for effective drug education practice in schools. The principles draw on drug-prevention research that focuses on effective drug education programs and the critical components for effectiveness.
Australian Drug Foundation - Drug Facts - functions as a drug prevention network providing easy access to information about alcohol and other drugs.
Drug education videos
Richard Midford - Is Drug Use an Issue for Young People?
Richard Midford explains why the one-off or single approach to drug education does not work and why it’s best to implement interactive programs that are proven to work best. Richard also explains how important it is for students to develop skills that prepare them for making informed decisions when faced with confronting situations in their lives.
Steve Allsop - An Effective Undertaking for Schools
Professor Allsop explains why it’s important for schools to have a whole school community approach to drug education. He also articulates why teachers are best placed to educate our young people, the skills and strategies for managing challenging situations they may face throughout their school years and beyond.
The following links to websites provide information you may find useful. Current information about drugs, evidence-based research and activities that highlight the health impact of drugs are offered.
Druginfo Clearinghouse - provides information about alcohol, other drugs and drug prevention.
QUIT - was established to provide information, support and resources to reduce tobacco use in society.
Tobacco Reforms - provided by the Department of Human Services, Victoria. The website provides information to parents and organisations about tobacco legislation.