'Não Arrisco II' (No Risk II) Project – A commitment by young people to young people in the area of prevention and reduction of the harmful use of psychotropic substances
Background: Protecting health by reducing the harmful use of psychotropic substances remains a priority aimed at reducing harm caused by these substances. Assuming the enormous influence exerted by the peer group makes it absolutely essential to train it through the implementation of programs focusing on information/awareness-raising campaigns, active involvement and awareness. The “Não Arrisco II” Project recommends five activities suited to different audiences. This article intends to describe: a) How important is it for students to improve their knowledge about psychotropic substances? and b) What is the conceptual evolution gained through participating in the activity?
Methods: Activity 3 with 9 grade students (N=180) took place during 3 to 5 sessions (60 minutes), with different tasks relating to the harmful use of psychotropic substances. The contents of the collaborative writing tasks and data regarding the two surveys were analysed: one on knowledge assessment (pre and post testing) and one regarding satisfaction. The data, mostly qualitative, and organized according to a system of inductive categories (Bardin, 2009), were collected in the school year (2017/18) in the intervention area of the Setúbal Delegation/CAOJ.
Results and key conclusions: In the Skills development category, young people report having attained a more balanced relationship and social development, personal growth, building healthier and more constructive relationships, as well as preventive skills, providing them with the necessary tools to adopt positive attitudes regarding physical, psychic and social well-being, stating namely: I have better interacted with my colleagues; the sharing of opinions and stories helped us learn to prevent risk behaviour; we became more mature while discussing specific matters in a different way; it helped us improve our attitudes and rethink them; the group activities were interesting and I had fun while learning.
The evolution made in Knowledge Acquisition is more visible in the following topics: does not know the consequences of early alcohol intake (27.8 %); unaware that alcohol is a central nervous system depressant (29.4 %); does not discern the impact of the same amount of alcohol on boys and on girls (10 %); does not know what the legal blood alcohol level is (30.6 %); unaware of some practices masking test results under the effect of alcohol (22.8 %); unaware that alcohol is a risk factor for disease and premature death (11.7 %); Hashish is not addictive (3.3 %), and unaware that alcohol and other psychotropic substances trigger other risk behaviours (10%).
These data stress the importance given by participants to this model, as peer educators, in the development of personal skills (improvement in the communication process and improvement of self-esteem), social and relational (interpersonal relationships; assertiveness; decision making and group work ability) as well as in knowledge acquisition. We consider the relevance of improving the knowledge questionnaire as follows: i) adaptation of the language used in some questions; (ii) reducing the number of questions; iii) rephrasing questions related to drugs.