Cross Party Working Group on New Psychoactive Substances

A report summarising the work of the New Psychoactive Substances (NPS)Cross Party Working Group and recommendations for further action.

5. Education and Prevention

5.1 In considering Education and Prevention, the CPWG heard from a number of experts including the Scottish Youth Parliament (SYP), Police Scotland and the Scottish Government. The focus was on initiatives including a NPS Discussion Day Event, the 'Choices for Life' education programme, the 'Know the Score' website, and a Social Influence Education Project.

NPS Discussion Day Event

5.2 On 26 September 2015, the SYP held an event in conjunction with the Scottish Government. The aim of this event was to engage directly with young people from a range of backgrounds to gain a better understanding of their awareness of NPS and to give them the opportunity to shape the Scottish Government's approach.

5.3 The event combined innovative and traditional youth work techniques. The discussions centred on a number of areas including what participants already knew about NPS, their perceptions, and how information should be targeted at young people. The SYP produced the report Tackling New Psychoactive Substances - A report on the views of young people from the findings of the event. A copy of the report can be found on the Scottish Government website.

5.4 Jordan Linden, Ben McKendrick, and Katie Burke, from the SYP, presented this report to the CPWG. Key points included a lack of knowledge and awareness of NPS amongst young people, the term 'NPS' was too confusing, the tone of the information should be neutral and based on fact and young people should be involved in the design, development, dissemination of information. A further point from the event was the potential positive impact of a peer-led approach. There was strong consensus that young people were more likely to respond better to advice and information from their peers.

Choices for Life

5.5 Choices for Life[15] is a substance misuse education programme which is delivered by Police Scotland in partnership with the Scottish Government, Young Scot and Education Scotland. The drugs, alcohol and tobacco education programme for schoolchildren includes an information website.

5.6 Detective Inspector Michael Miller, National Drug Co-ordinator, Police Scotland, explained that the core ethos of the programme is delivered nationally via the internet. Messages are also delivered locally through a series of community events, festive safety campaigns and festival safety initiatives.

Know the Score

5.7 The Scottish Government's Know the Score[16] website and helpline provides comprehensive information and advice on drugs and emerging trends. It helps those who access it to understand the consequences of their use, and signposts services and sources of help if required. The target audience is 16-25 year olds, specifically those who are thinking about experimenting with drugs.

5.8 Vicky Carmichael, Policy Manager, Scottish Government, outlined a range of specific resources that had been developed in partnership with a range of stakeholders to provide factual information on NPS. The resources include Facebook adverts, feature articles, posters, pocket guides, and an interactive quiz. Information is provided in plain English in a range of formats that is accessible and appealing to the Know the Score audience.

5.9 The increase in NPS material and information has led to a rise in traffic to the website and NPS pages. In addition, there has also been an increase in the duration of time spent on the website. The Scottish Government will be continuing to invest in the NPS resources and are currently developing new resources that will build on the growing numbers accessing NPS information.

Forth Valley ADP Social Influence Programme

5.10 Vicky Carmichael also introduced the CPWG to an approach developed by Forth Valley Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) which challenges thinking and behaviour using social norms theory. The 'Forth Valley ADP Social Influence' programme is funded by a range of partners including the Tobacco Action Group and the Robertson Trust and is designed to challenge differences between perception and reality.

5.11 The theory predicts that, over time, negative behaviours will increase. This results as a consequence of pupils feeling pressure to conform to a false peer group norm. The theory explains how the minority who regularly engage in negative behaviours do so believing that they are just like everyone else; suggesting that the greatest potential for change exists within this group. Further information about this project and a link to a film that provides more detail, can be found on the Social Services Knowledge Scotland website[17].

Key Observations and Conclusions

5.12 In reviewing the findings of the SYP event, the CPWG concluded a number of the recommendations were closely aligned and should be linked together. The CPWG agreed there was a range of educational initiatives and resources available within secondary schools and that steps should be taken to further promote these with the school setting.

5.13 The CPWG noted the SYP point in relation to the term 'NPS' was confusing. However, the term has been widely adopted across academia, research, health, enforcement and the third sector at a national and international level. The CPWG agreed it was necessary to ensure consistency and therefore it would not be appropriate to change the term. The CPWG did agree that more needed to be done to ensure the term NPS was better embedded within society and that further efforts should be made to ensure this.

5.14 The CPWG also agreed there was a gap in relation to communication and that further action should be taken to engage more appropriately with young people in ways that meet their needs. It is important that those working with young people conduct themselves in a non-judgemental manner. In particular, the CPWG agreed that social media tools should be utilised more in relation to NPS and education and that a peer-led approach should form part of the process in the design, development and dissemination of information to young people.

5.15 A further conclusion of the CPWG was that there is a gap in relation to youth workers awareness of NPS. It was recommended further engagement is made with this group to increase knowledge of NPS, the health risks and how these can be minimised. A further recommendation was to work with youth workers to increase their confidence to support young people who are using NPS.

5.16 A Ministerial letter should be sent to Directors of Education and Parent/Teacher Association to promote current education initiatives within the school setting.

5.17 The Scottish Government should encourage stakeholders to fully exploit Social Media tools in education and prevention messaging.


Email: Vicky Carmichael

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