Government-backed plan to recruit ‘cool kids’ in schools as ‘anti-drug influencers’ to stop the spread of substance abuse
- Classmates will vote and those in the top 17.5% will be invited onto the scheme
- Funded by NHS body; will run across 48 schools in parts of England and Wales
- Comes after ‘limited evidence that drug prevention interventions are effective’
The most popular children at school will be recruited to act as anti-drug ‘influencers’ in a Government-backed scheme.
Teenagers who have been voted by their peers as the most ‘trendy’ will be trained in how to discourage their classmates from taking illicit drugs.
The scheme, known as ‘Frank Friends’, is funded by the NHS body National Institute for Health Research, and will run across 48 schools in West England and South Wales.
The project, which will begin in September, will be run by Cardiff University researchers.
The most popular children at school will be recruited to act as anti-drug ‘influencers’ in a Government scheme that will begin in September across 48 schools (stock)
Dr James White, senior lecturer in public health at Cardiff University, told The Telegraph: ‘There is limited evidence that [current] drug prevention interventions are effective.
‘Schools provide a systematic and efficient way of reaching a large number of people every year.
‘This randomised controlled trial is the best way to determine if the Frank Friends intervention prevents drug use among young people.’
Around 580,000 secondary-school students (18 per cent) in England took drugs at least once last year, according to the charity Mentor UK.
Cannabis is the most common illicit drug, with eight per cent of high-school pupils claiming they used it in 2018.
To help combat this, the Government programme will have 5,600 13-to-14 year olds vote for their most influential classmate.
Those in the top 17.5 per cent will be asked to have two days of training on how to discourage drug taking.
They will then be encouraged to discuss the harms of illicit substances with their classmates over the next ten weeks.
Half the schools in the programme will act as ‘controls’ and will not take part in the scheme.
The effectiveness of the project at stopping adolescent drug use will be compared against these controls.
The scheme will run for three years, making it the UK’s largest school-based drug prevention programme.
Drug use during adolescence has been linked to brain abnormalities, slowed thinking, and impaired learning and memory.
It has also been associated with a reduction in feel-good hormones, which may cause teenagers to spiral into depression.
Experts estimate 13 per cent of people who smoke cannabis as a teenager become addicted to it. And regular users see their IQ drop by eight points.
One study even found 17-to-18 year olds who smoke marijuana are 65 per cent more likely to crash their car.
WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE THAT CANNABIS INCREASES RISK OF MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS?
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