OTTAWA — A national youth and student drug reform organization says young Canadians don't put much stock in the federal government's anti-drug approach, so it has created a new website it says may better educate young people about the risks they take by using drugs.
Canadian Students for a Sensible Drug Policy designed , which it says moves away from the government's "just say no" approach, which it calls ineffective.
"One of the biggest failings of previous youth drug education programs is that young people don't take them seriously," said Caleb Chepesiuk, CSSDP staff member.
"We are providing a resource that gives young people serious, honest information on drugs and their risks and tips on how they can keep themselves and their friends safe through either avoiding drugs or by recognizing and preventing problematic substance use patterns before they start. It fails to acknowledge that young people use drugs."
Explaining the government strategy, Tamara Kalnins, 24, and a member of the board of directors for CSSDP said that the definition of insanity is repeating an action and expecting a different result, which is what she says, the government's drug program appears to be doing, with a "just say no" strategy she says is failing to engage young people. The key is to talk with young people, not at them, she says.
CSSDP is particularly concerned with the government's decision to exclude alcohol, tobacco and pharmaceuticals from its prevention strategies.
"By excluding alcohol from its drug strategy, when it is by far, the most common drug used by Canadian youth and is one with the most damaging effects on the brain of adolescents, our government is failing to take its responsibility and is putting our youth at risk," said Dr. Jean-Sebastian Fallu, an assistant professor in the department of psycho-education at the University of Montreal.
"Because alcohol is considered a legal substance in our society, the government wants to target drugs that are known to be illegal.. Just telling teens that they shouldn't do drugs because they are bad for you and only mentioning the risks involved, thinking that they will stay away from them, is counterproductive because like cigarette smokers, who know that cigarettes are bad for health, teens also know that some drugs are bad but they will still experiment with them."
The group, which gave a media briefing on Parliament Hill Tuesday, said it expected the website to be up and running late Tuesday.
According to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey for 2009, the most commonly used drug is alcohol, with 58.2 per cent of students reporting use during the 12 months prior to the survey.
Marijuana is the next most commonly used drug, with 25.6 per cent reporting past-year use.
The non-medical use of prescription opioid pain relievers, such as codeine, Percocet, Percodan, Demerol, or Tylenol No. 3, ranks third at 17.8 per cent. Tobacco ranks fourth, with 11.7 per cent of respondents reporting smoking cigarettes during the past year.
About one-fifth (19.8 per cent) of students said they had used prescription opioid pain relievers non-medically in their lifetime.
"While prevention is the key part of our message, teens will learn about safe drug use and how to think for themselves," Kalnins said.