ACMD highlights prevention knowledge gap

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More needs to be done to ‘identify and understand the best approaches to substance abuse prevention’, according to a briefing paper from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).

Produced by the council’s recovery committee, Prevention of drug and alcohol dependence warns that ‘standalone projects’ are likely to have little impact unless they are part of wider strategies to promote healthy living. Some approaches, such as ‘mass-media publicity campaigns’ and drug education in schools, were found to have little impact ‘when used in isolation’, says the report.

The document wants to see those working in the field ‘agree common terminology’ and urges policy makers to recognise that the ‘health and social impacts of drug abuse can be reduced without users abstaining entirely’. It also argues that national policy should be guided by an ‘evidence-based assessment of prevention work’ considering the long-term impact of programmes that could otherwise be ‘hindered by short-term political, financial and public-opinion pressures’.

‘This research demonstrates that there is more to be done in order to understand the complex network of substance abuse prevention programmes operating in the United Kingdom,’ said ACMD chair Professor Sir Les Iversen. ‘Better analysis of the merits of these programmes will help policy makers and commissioners to make best use of limited financial resources, with the ultimate beneficiaries being the service users themselves.’

Meanwhile, a report from the House of Commons education committee says that Personal, Social, Health and Economics Education (PSHE) in schools should be made statutory. A 2013 report from Ofsted concluded that the subject ‘required improvement’ in 40 per cent of schools. ‘It’s important that school leaders and governors take PSHE seriously and improve their provision by investing in training for teachers and putting PSHE lessons on the school timetable,’ said committee chair Graham Stuart. ‘Statutory status will help ensure all of this happens.’

Prevention of drug and alcohol dependence at www.gov.uk

Life lessons: PSHE and SRE in schools at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmeduc/145/14502.htm