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Why Drug and Alcohol Education Is So Important

Posted: 04/06/2013 00:00

Nearly two years ago Camden lost one of our most famous musicians. Amy Winehouse's death shocked and saddened people around the world. Amy was undoubtedly one of the most talented singer song writers to come from the UK in recent years and had the ability to write some of the most astounding music. She is missed locally, and globally, by many.

It is a great testimony to the resilience of Amy's family that soon after her death they decided to work on retaining her legacy by setting up a new charity in her name, with the aim of preventing the effects of drug and alcohol misuse on young people. Amy herself was a strong supporter of local good causes particularly around homelessness and young people and Mitch Winehouse has said that he views the work of the charity as continuing what his daughter started.

When the Winehouse family started work on the new charity they spoke to people in recovery from addictions. One of the constant stories they heard was that people made decisions, in part, because they were not given any information on the impact that drugs and alcohol will have on their health and lives. Far too many young people and their families are affected by substance misuse, yet it continues to be a subject that people avoid talking about.

It is astonishing to think that drug and alcohol education is not on the National Curriculum and that few schools discuss the subject at all. But most schools do not discuss drug or substance misuse with young people at all. At worst some local police forces do classes that focus on the legal aspects of drugs rather than give young people the information they need on the health impacts of drug use. I am pleased to say that Camden has been leading the way on this through the PSHE classes in our secondary schools, but more needs to be done.

Addaction, the drug treatment and alcohol recovery charity, has seen a 25% rise in the number of young people seeking help for drug and alcohol problems in the last five years. It is depressing to think that many of these young people received no information in advance of developing an addiction.

Earlier this year the Amy Winehouse Foundation launched a schools education project on addictions in association with Childline, the NSPCC and Addaction. Much of the programme is delivered by a team of people in recovery, who are fully trained, accredited and supported by professional workers in the field, to utilize their own experiences as recovering addicts to give young people a better understanding of the consequences of drug and alcohol misuse. These 'share' sessions also provide a catalyst for further discussion around the underlying issues that can lead to drug or alcohol misuse such as low self-esteem, peer pressure and risky behaviour. The young people will be given ongoing support through a free, confidential helpline run by Childline.

The programme is unique in that classes will be given for parents to give them confidence to discuss addictions with their children. Teachers will be given the information they need to identify pupils at risk through addictions and signpost the young people to services that can help. Young people will have the opportunity to learn of the health impact of substances, alcohol and so called legal highs.

In addition they'll discuss self-esteem issues that cause many young people low confidence. That's why this new programme is so important. It looks at the underlying issues and gives young people the confidence to deal with these problems without turning to drugs or alcohol in the first place.

As Camden's Mayor I'm proud to be working closely with the Amy Winehouse Foundation. Three of our secondary schools are to take part in the resilience programme over the next twelve months and I hope that more will follow in the future. I am working with London Assembly member Tom Copley in discussing the scheme with other London Borough's and the Mayor of London.

Since the launch of the scheme 50 schools have come on board across the UK. I hope the programme influences the Government to adopt this scheme as best practice.

Read more and donate to the Amy Winehouse Foundation Resilience Programme: http://www.amywinehousefoundation.org/resilience-programme-for-schools

 

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