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Title: Is 'Just Say No' the most appropriate mechanism for educationg young people about drugs?: an investigation into school-based drug education in Northern Ireland
Author: Meehan, Claire
Awarding Body: University of Ulster
Current Institution: Ulster University
Date of Award: 2013
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Levels of drug use have increased in Northern Ireland during the past decade and particularly amongst young people. Recently, the government in response to community concerns and an increased media focus has banned drugs known as 'legal highs'. A consequence o! these actions has been an explosion in unregulated information about these drugs online through the mediums of search engines, chat rooms, forums, blogs and social networking sites. This has proved to be a challenge for existing school-based drug education. Within this context this thesis provides a holistic sociological perspective on drug education and harm reduction. Specifically, it addresses: the debate between school-based drug education and harm reduction and the difficulty of embedding harm reduction within the school system. A mixed method approach was utilized. This incorporated a questionnaire survey with a sample of 440 pupils, drawn from ten schools in Northern Ireland, which was conducted over two time points. Qualitative data included focus groups, interviews and semi-structured interviews of teachers, youth workers, police, paramilitaries and young people attending an Alternative Education Provider. In addition, content analysis of online media, including Social Networking Sites, was undertaken. Key findings highlight that young people's drug use is a significant problem. A harm reduction strategy an as alternative to drug education was examined. Often the educator's involved in the research had misconceptions about what harm reduction involved and indicated that they were reluctant to adopt a harm reduction approach to drug education. Common reasons were that a harm reduction strategy would, or be seen to, condone drug use, encourage drug use, upset parents, or damage the school's reputation. A further finding was the current programme of drug education is being undermined by pupils' use of the Internet. Existing drug education programmes are reluctant to use, and engage, with the same resources as pupils (such as chat-rooms, blogs, forums and Social Networking sites) in an attempt to educate the young people how to use them as safely as possible. As a result, pupils were often unhappy with the current programme of school-based drug education, and were spending time online seeking drug information. Common themes from participants was that the current programme of drug education was 'boring' with an over reliance on PowerPoint presentations and out-dated textbooks. It is recommended that harm reduction would be a more effective strategy within schools if it is integrated within a broader more comprehensive drug education agenda. It is recommended that a new approach to drug education that integrates harm reduction with the traditional programme of drug education would be a more successful way to educate young people about drugs. It is also recommended from the research that teacher engagement with the Internet is essential as a tool to gain information on drugs and to inform and educate young people on the risks associated with drug use. This research contributes to the educational debate surrounding harm reduction versus the current programme of school-based drug education and young people's engagement in drug education programmes in schools.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available