LEt’s Talk about drugs: Assessment of drug education in Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, and Serbia
Drug use is usually equated with drug abuse, and abstinence is treated as the sole measure of success and the only acceptable option to learn. The goal of the study conducted in 5 countries was to assess existing drug education and its effectiveness, look at what information on drugs is available and how it is perceived by young people, examine methods and tools used by different actors to talk about drugs with youth, and gather best practices. Desk research, 17 focus groups with specialists working with young people and people who use drugs, plus at least 5 semi-structured interviews with decision makers and health professionals in each country. 1,500 questionnaires gathered through SurveyMonkey platform among young people aged 16-30.
The majority of those who received some form of drug education, received it at school (Hungary 93%, Serbia 86%, Bulgaria 74%, Poland 73%, Lithuania 64%). In all countries except Bulgaria, police involvement in drug education is quite high. In most cases drug education was provided as a one-off formal lecture. Education received outside of schools was evaluated more positively; it was assessed as being less judgmental, contained more new, honest, and useful information. Evidence shows that young people come into contact with various types of illegal substances from early adolescence. At the same time most of the formal drug education young people receive is based on the 'just say no' paradigm and scare tactics.
Study participants agreed that to be effective, drug education should be provided: •by a person who has received special training on substance use and has first-hand experience with substance use; •in a non-judgmental way, based on scientific evidence; •in an interactive manner, using engaging, modern tools and platforms; •preferably in small groups in a safe environment; and •in a format of open and honest dialog.