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09/07/2007 00:00:00

Scotland: Campaign shows how to spot teen drug abuse

YOUTH workers are being trained to spot the telltale signs of drug abuse
among teenagers.

Crew 2000 has launched a £35,000 campaign to reach as many teenagers as
possible this summer.

The initiative will focus on "gateway" drugs such as alcohol, cannabis,
poppers and ecstasy.

People who work with teenagers are being taught how to spot abuse and
given advice to pass on about the harm drugs can do to young minds and

The initiative is aimed at 13 to 15 year olds, although it will also
target children as young as 11.

A Scottish Executive-funded advice centre, Crew 2000, which also
receives cash from Action on Alcohol and Drugs in Edinburgh, is a
respected authority on drug trends, as its volunteers regularly visit
nightspots and talk to users.

Workers at the centre believe that, at 15, some teenagers are on the
brink of serious abuse. If unchecked, the abuse can escalate to more
serious drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine.

John Arthur, manager of Crew 2000, said: "We have put a new focus on
training youth workers. We see this as a better way of reaching more
young people."

He added: "A lot of local authority workers and volunteers from other
agencies don't have enough knowledge about substance abuse to engage
with young people.

"Young people tend to start experimenting aged 13 to 15. After that, the
usage can rise sharply. Mostly it starts with alcohol abuse, maybe
poppers and cannabis.

"Depending on where they are in their lives there can then be a sharp
rise after 15 and they try more dangerous substances."

Since the start of the year, Crew 2000 has trained 30 volunteers and
held 12 sessions for youth workers at its Cockburn Street base.

Youth organisations such as Barnado's, South Edinburgh Youth Council,
Oxgangs Drama Group, and Fairbridge Streetwork, have also received
training, as have medical students, paediatric staff, and Red Cross workers.

Claire MacLoud, a voluntary youth worker based in Wester Hailes, who
works with between 20 and 30 youngsters, is among those to have benefited.

She said: "A lot of it is signs and things to look for - emotional
signals, physical signals.

"The most common thing in Wester Hailes is hash - smoking marijuana - so
you would look for physical signals such as large pupils, slurred speech."

Like all youth workers she is governed by child protection guidelines
which mean she must contact social services if she considers a child is
in danger.

However, in the majority of cases she would aim to build up a level of
trust with the young person and give them advice on the harm drugs can
do, rather than contact their parents or the police.

Ms MacLoud said: "The training teaches us to know what we're talking
about so we get the children's respect. They know that you are clued up
and that gets you a foot in the door."

A spokeswoman for the Action on Alcohol and Drugs in Edinburgh said:
"Tackling problematic drinking and substance misuse amongst young people
is a key strategic area for the Action Team, and Crew 2000, along with
other agencies, do extremely important work in this area."

Author: The Scotsman via UKCIA

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