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Douglas Capraro Douglas Capraro

Pamphlets Telling Kids How to Use Drugs More Safely Spark Predictable Backlash

The drug education program in Scotland is aimed at kids as young as 13 and includes safety tips "if you're determined to use."

12 Substance

These "accurate" and "non-judgmental" drug pamphlets promote harm reduction with in-depth advise on drug use. Daily Mail

Safety tips can still be controversial.

How much is too much information when it comes to educating young people about drugs? This is the question being asked in Edinburgh, Scotland, where a drug education project is distributing booklets that contain information for young people about drugs, including tips on how to use them more safely.

The Edinburgh council and the city’s Drug and Alcohol Project launched the project this week at a high school, with other schools expected to follow in the coming months.

The pamphlets—called “Snapfacts”—are aimed at people aged 13 to 25, and include a range of information about common illicit drugs, like MDMA and cocaine. One section, titled “Safety tips—if you’re determined to use” contains advice like “avoid sharing rolled-up bank notes or straws to reduce the risk of getting HIV or Hep C,” “avoid mixing [cocaine] with alcohol” and “wash your nose out after each session.”

The pamphlets fall under the umbrella of harm reduction, an approach that has repeatedly been proven to reduce the potential harms associated with using. But many anti-drug campaigners—including, predictably, the Daily Mail—are opposing the pamphlets on the grounds that they justify and encourage drug use by kids.

“The minds of young people are inexperienced and this sort of thing will only help to confirm in their view that taking drugs is an OK past time,” says politician and former police officer Graeme Pearson. He says that educators should “give young people a future and a hope of employment” rather than “misplaced” advice. And the leader of anti-drug charity the Maxie Richards Foundation insists: “There is no safe way to take drugs. Drugs destroy people so why would you want to put together a leaflet?”

But Gael Cochrane, who is helping to lead the project, says that educating young people is paramount: “Some young people will look things up on the internet but many will not. Without all the facts they are in a more dangerous situation.”