Does Drug Education Work?
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Recent research indicates that certain drug education programmes do stop or delay the onset of drug use under optimum conditions. Social inoculation programmes have generally enjoyed the greatest degree of success, but the behaviour changes have been confined to a small number of students; have not been uniform across all drugs and have diminished over time. Research on the cost effectiveness of drug education progammes indicates that they compare favourably with the cost effectiveness of most law enforcement approaches, but are not as cost effective as treatment. While there are some methodological qualifications, the drug education literature does indicate that soundly conceptualized and rigorously implemented programmes can influence drug using behaviour and that comprehensive provision of such programmes is likely to produce a net social cost saving to society. This does not mean that proven drug education programs will necessarily be implemented. The most powerful factor in the implementation process is selection of programmes on the basis of ideal outcomes, rather than on the evidence of what can realistically be achieved. Ultimately, this is self-defeating, because programme failures will again discredit the whole drug education approach. Drug education programmes must be selected because they have demonstrated the ability to have a beneficial impact on youth drug use and youth drug problems.
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