The 5th International Drug Prevention Conference Rome – Sept 2003

Paper by Peter Stoker C. Eng., M.I.C.E. (Retd). Director, National Drug Prevention Alliance (UK).
“We need to get beyond the notion that prevention is merely stopping something happening, to a more positive approach which creates conditions which promote the well-being of people”.

The essence of prevention is not centred on blocking negative behaviours which are unlawful, unhealthy or anti-social; it is centred on promoting positive, healthy, behaviours which are life-affirming and which bring lasting benefits to self and society. Paraphrasing Lofquist, I would add that we also need to ‘get beyond the notion’ that engaging in a few mechanistic processes, or pumping out a few aspirational messages, will solve the problem. To quote American humourist H L Mencken,


“For every complex problem there is a simple solution – and it doesn’t work”.

The implications of this for prevention are major. It means that if we are to have a significant preventive effect we must not only look at the mechanisms of drug abuse but at the mechanisms of society – in which drug abuse is but one of several problematic behaviours.
I like the story of the drug worker who fought his way across deserts and through blizzards to reach the cave where the greatest guru in the world lived. ” Oh, Great Guru” he said ” Can you tell us how to solve the massive problem which is drug abuse?”. ” Why do people abuse drugs?” asked the guru. ” To escape reality” said the drug worker. “That’s easy, then” said the guru “You just need to improve reality”.

Culture is another word that can be interpreted in many ways. My dictionary tells me that it can relate to the arts; to the producing of what is known as ‘cultured people’. Or it can relate to the growing of things like bacteria – or of a pearl in an oyster – perhaps this latter concept is a nice one for us to hold on to; that out of gritty situations we can help to produce a thing of beauty and value. But leaving those definitions aside, the dictionary definition of culture which we are ordinarily engaged with is


   “The Attitudes and Behaviour of Particular Social Groups”.

Culture is both reactive and pro-active. It reflects what is already there – but also influences what is to come. If prevention is “… the sum of our actions to ensure healthy, safe and productive lives for all our children and families” (CSAP 1993)(Ref.2) then culture is the sum of all our expressions and influences – be they healthy or unhealthy.

This leads me to the definition of ‘Health’. Far too often this is narrowly described in terms of physical capacity or mental illness. But we should surely know from classical and modern writings that ‘Health’ is much wider than this, and in its other manifestations it is much more prone to cultural influences. A typical definition of ‘Total Health’ – such as is used by (int. al.) the World Health Organisation – is:



Physical           How well do I use the body I have?
Mental             How well, or ill is the structure of my brain?
Intellectual       How well do I use the brain I have?
Social              How well do I interact with my community?
Emotional         Am I in touch with my feelings, or do they control me?
Spiritual           Is there purpose, or just a void, within me?
Environmental   Am I a giver or a taker, in this planet I inhabit?


There are many factors influencing decisions about behaviour – factors which contribute to the culture in which the decision is taken. You can address these individually or corporately, but if you only address them individually, you are unlikely to significantly affect the culture. Why do you need to be conscious of this? Because of that essential truth – ‘Think globally – act locally’ – if, that is, you want to act sensibly and effectively at the local level. Another very good reason for taking the wider view is that the culture around behaviour can be likened to a kind of ‘social ecology’. In a paper (Ref.3) written jointly with Professor Roy Evans of Brunel University, this concept of social ecology is explored. The essence of it is that width of vision and caution is required, because actions in one element produce reactions in others, sometimes unexpectedly, and sometimes undesirably. The corollorary is also true: that is, you may be able to beneficially generate an effect in an element you have not explicitly impacted, by addressing other elements which in turn influence it.

To explore this, let’s look at a concept developed by American prevention expert Bill Oliver (Ref.4), to explain the development of addiction, and which I have augmented; to illustrate the culture of behaviour – Bill uses the analogy of a tree… the Tree of Behaviour.

When the Tree of Behaviour is fully developed and regularised, it will display itself in two crowning branches – one healthy; the other unhealthy. Unhealthy regularised behaviour is what we in the drugs field call dependency (or addiction). This is reached progressively by behaviour which started as just trying something, then repeating it occasionally, then regularly, and then habitually repeating it. Despite the increasing evidence of the damage that this behaviour is causing, there is a compulsion to continue.

Some of this will also be true of healthy behaviours, but with these there will be no need of a compulsion to over-ride the negative experiences; positive experiences will play a part in encouraging the behaviour to continue (though the value of ‘positive reinforcement’ is also well proven). This is what we hope for and seek to develop through our prevention efforts.

But the Tree of Behaviour doesn’t grow out of nowhere – it isn’t spontaneously created; it is the outcome of a process that is largely invisible. Invisible because it is below ground; it has roots. Within each of us – in our personal mission control centre and as the root of our behaviour, is an assemblage of intellect, will and emotion. As impulses reach our centre of consciousness, our intellect, will and emotion respond to the impulse and the outcome is that we develop a thought. We give consideration to that thought – including whether or not we want to put it into action – and in the process we develop an attitude towards it. Our attitude towards any action we are contemplating is probably the first visible sign which others can see – like the first green shoots of a tree coming up through the ground. This is why, as parents, we need to be vigilant about the attitudes our children display.

What I want you to concentrate on, though, is that internal, ‘underground’ phase – before the attitude develops. Psychologists have identified a stage before a thought formulates; it is what they call ‘pre-contemplation’ – meaning that you are thinking about thinking about something. In this seminal stage, a great many influences apply… Memories – good and bad. Using those memory banks to project images of what might happen if this behaviour is followed. Values and boundaries for the individual Weighing advantages and disadvantages to oneself and to others. Applying learning received so far. Peer pressure and role models. The drive for personal pleasure. Curiosity and risk taking. Pain and how to avoid it. Feelings of spirituality and faith – or the lack of them. All these and more will influence the nurturing of that first thought, and will decide whether we reject it – or decide to act on it. I would term this ‘the culture in which decisions are made’.

If someone alters the culture within which decisions are made, it is virtually certain that there will be different outcomes. In my paper “Moralising, Demoralising … the Fight over Personal and Social Education” (Ref.5) I describe how the Values Clarification philosophy founded by Carl Rogers and Professor Sidney Simon (and which also drew in part on the thinking of their contemporary, Abraham Maslow) can be seen to have found fertile ground in which to breed – firstly in California – where else?! – but later touching down in various spots around the world. The confluence of Rogerian thought with other liberally-inclined arguments produced a juggernaut that crushed all but a few vestiges of the morally-based opposition. The confluence was further swollen by the expansion of illegal drugs – out from marginal use by the mid-twenties and older age groups – into mass use by the young, and is also accentuated by the new ‘cult of youth’ – the conferring upon them of greater freedoms at the same time as the removal of much of the authority traditionally held by parents and teachers. Greater disposable income level by the young, and the consequent emergence of a youth market, were other key factors.

I would argue, from all this, that it is not too much to say that Culture drives Behaviour – be it at individual or societal level. It follows that if you want to change behaviour, you have to change the culture. No small task!


Consider first this simplified hierarchy – or ‘nest’ of cultures:



  • Culture within ourselves effects our attitude, our values and boundaries, as we think, review the action we are contemplating.
  • Our group culture opens us up to peer pressure, as well as to spirituality and religion.
  • Our community culture opens us up to norms of behaviour as well as economic, social and political constraints.
  • Our society culture does the same, but on a bigger stage.

Each of these cultures is nested within another, and also inter-related with other cultural influences in a complex mix.
Each of us moves between these nests in a way that it is influenced by our environment, acting in tension with our personal culture – and the beliefs that flow from it. Structural factors may be positive or negative – things like employment (or lack of it); bereavement, frustration, love, recognition, fulfilment, friendships, housing, money (or the lack of it), – all these and more will all act to steer us into different cultures.

One of the most dramatic examples of how culture can influence behaviour came in 1974, when a study of Vietnam War veterans found that only 12% of those who were addicted to heroin in Vietnam took up the habit again once they had returned to the USA, despite heroin being easy to find in the US, to the extent that half of them admitted trying it again before abandoning the practice.

Societal factors overlay and add to the culture. Whilst there are positive societal factors – such as the growth of ‘volunteerism’ and the increase in government subsidy for the arts; there is no shortage of societal factors which tend to encourage drug abuse. Here are some examples:



Conspicuous consumption – displaying my ability to spend

Rapid gratification – pleasure NOW, not this afternoon

Rights but no responsibilities – my wants, free of ‘cost’ (to me, that is)

The ‘Right to be Happy’ – others have no right to stop it

Self before society – others are all there to serve me

Youth on top – defer to them; they are ‘kings of’cool’’

Political Correctness – follow these rules, right or wrong.

Politics is a culture all of its own, operating in its own idiosyncratic way. Avoidance of loss of face, and the search for re-election are two of the cultural criteria. In an information-laden age there is increasing reliance placed on the ‘Civil Servant’ – the hired hand who analyses, recommends and speech-writes for his hurried master, the politician. The civil servants have their own cultural standards, partly rooted in the need to be seen by their politician (amongst others) as ‘expert’ – this means they too have to find other ‘experts’ from which to obtain the expertise, and this lays them open to lobby groups.
Norman Dennis, in his short paper: “The Culture of Intoxication” (Ref.6) expresses horror, but gives us a timely warning, in observing arch-legaliser Arnold Trebach and others actively presenting their libertarian arguments within the European Parliament. We will all have our own view of the European Parliament – and to what extent it relates to reality – but the core concern has to be that Trebach and others like him have far greater resources than we do, and there is therefore the very real risk that the European Parliament will recycle the pro-drug cultures statements, presenting them to the unwary – especially in the new Enlargement Nations – as ‘wisdom from the centre’

Melanie Phillips, in her paper “Hatchet-Faced Idealists” (Ref.7) described how there has been Left Wing support for terror since the French Revolution, running on through the eras of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. In the 1940s George Orwell savagely attacked the so-called ‘intellectual left’ for its innate defeatism, its disaffection with the West and its fascination with the brutal governance of the Eastern bloc. From these stark beginnings can be seen the emergence of ‘intellectuals’ giving succour to drug abuse – rationalising it as a ‘legitimate’ expression of disaffection for conservative/’right wing’ ideology and authority.

And of course one massive player in the culture game is The MEDIA. The ‘messengers’. The rulers of this magnificent city which is Rome used to have a tradition of killing any messenger who brought bad news – if we continued this practice these days we wouldn’t have any journalists left! But instead we seem to expect bad news – and disbelieve anything good we hear. Meanwhile the messengers have transformed themselves from reporters of the news into makers of the news – and filtering everything through their own belief system. It used to be said that journalists gave us ‘All the news that’s fit to print’ – nowadays, the more cynical attitude is summed by the strapline on the front of Rolling Stone magazine … ‘All the news that fits’.

TV is the big one, of course. A major survey in America a few years ago found that an encouragingly high percentage of children got their information about life issues from their parents. But the same survey asked the parents where they got their information from … the great majority answered: ‘the TV’. Radio is more pervasive than you might think, especially with the young, who tune in for the music but get a lot more besides. Newspapers, populist and ‘quality’ also indulge in what is known as ‘Advocacy Journalism’ – which means lobbying to you and me. There is of course always a place for ‘Opinion’ pieces in journalism, but what we have now is way beyond that. Generous space is afforded to advocates of drug law relaxation, whilst prevention advocates stand outside with their noses pressed to the window; largely ignored or else used in a tokenist way to give a suggestion of ‘balance’.

What you and I may define as ‘balance’ is often very different to the definition the media uses. In his book ‘Bias’ the former senior journalist with CBS News, Bernard Goldberg (Ref.8), describes how most journalists seriously believe that in their liberal – or even libertarian – views, they represent the middle ground, so it follows that anyone seeking to preserve moral order is of the Extreme Right, and thus to be shunned or ridiculed. The ruthless way in which they dispatch those who challenge their orthodoxy is well described by Melanie Phillips, in her paper “The Trouble with the Liberal Elite is that it just isn’t Liberal” (Ref.9). She laments the fact that today is an era in which truth has become relative. The American philosopher William James (1842 – 1910) went so far as to suggest that



    ‘Truth may be defined as that which it is ultimately satisfying to believe’.

Melanie goes on to paint a stark picture of modern life, in which drug legalisation is contemplated for no other reason than profit; alternatives to the traditional family structure are destroying marriage; tolerance of alternative lifestyles is overtaken by pressure to endorse and promote them; and so-called liberals castigate anyone who seeks to protect morals as ‘authoritarian’, ‘nanny’, or ‘fascist’. Liberalism, she says, was born out of reaction to the tyranny of monarchies and other hardline authorities, but when democracy replaced these despots, liberalism – instead of stepping back – went on a quest for justification of its continued existence, and in the process became a perversion of its earlier noble purpose. Liberals will now tell you that only they can achieve the nirvana of perfect lifestyle for us all – and that this has to be an existence in which no one is judged. As she wryly concludes:


  ‘all moral judgements are wrong, except the judgment that judgment itself is wrong’.

It is a matter of record that a significant number of media outlets have decided to actively campaign for liberalization of drug laws. And to persuade other publications, if not actually to join them, at any rate to show some degree of sympathy. Amongst the British national newspapers there is currently only one which takes a consistently outspoken line against drugs (and another which takes a lower-key approach). The outspoken paper is the Mail, traditionally held to be the paper Mr Blair most worried about, because of its strong center ground position and high circulation. It is quite clear that over the past three or more years a steady campaign to assassinate and marginalize the Mail has been sustained in the media and amongst the ‘chattering classes’.
The newspapers’ colleagues in print, the magazines, are amongst the strongest promoters of hedonism. ‘Style’ magazines like Face, FHM, ID, Ministry, have long pursued a love affair with ‘lad/ladette’ behaviour – heavy drinking, ‘caning’ (drugs), promiscuity are all seen as milestones which all must pass to gain entry to the World of Cool. Even the youth magazines – like Bella, 19, and Just17 – all of which are regularly read by those much younger than their ostensible readership age – have an unhealthy pre-occupation with sex. In addition to these ‘generic’ magazines, there are of course the ‘specialist’ magazines like ‘High Times’, ‘Cannabis Culture’’Heads’ to cater for the dedicated doper – and to intrigue the casual reader.

Films rely on something called ‘Product Placement’ to boost their revenue – this is the inclusion of commodities on the screen to make people want to buy them. It works for commercial products – but it also works for things like drugs, which are many times included in the action with no justification in the storyline, and with inappropriate audience ages … ET and Crocodile Dundee are just two examples of this malpractice. Posters. Tee shirts. The fashion industry with its exploitation of ‘heroin chic’. The advertising industry with its cynical deployment of drug culture icons. They all add to the picture … a picture which – you might say – is being developed in the negative!


It is in the nature of our overloaded, under-resourced profession that we behave like Chinese jugglers, rushing from one stick to another to keep the plates spinning. One plate is marked ‘Education’, another ‘Awareness’, while another concerns ‘Messages’ (or slogans). Others concern Speeches, Posters, Advertisements, Songs, Drama, Poems and so on. In this situation it is all too easy to become obsessed with twiddling the sticks and – fearful of stepping back – we can neither see the whole of the structure, nor the gaps in it. What we therefore tend to do is to keep on spinning plates and hope that what we are doing is somehow improving the situation.

Some experts have already addressed the inter-action of prevention and culture. Responding to the assertion of legalisers, that John Stuart Mill (regarded by many as one of the forefathers of ‘Liberty’ as we understand it – or misunderstand it – today) would have benn sanguine about drug abuse, Professor Norman Dennis in his paper “Drug Legalisation and ‘On Liberty’ – the Misuse of Mill’ (Ref.10) defines a continuum of cultures stretching from ‘Anomie’ (anything goes) to ‘Authoritarianism’. He paraphrases Max Weber in saying that there are four main types of culture; of which two have little to do with rational thought; one is driven by tradition and the other by emotion. The other two, more rationally based are the ‘fully rational but self-interested, calculating’ approach and – lastly – what Weber calls the ‘value-rational’ approach. This last one is driven by principles, rather than self interest. Advocates of drug legalisation have attempted to tendentiously pigeonhole John Stuart Mill in the ‘self-interested’ culture, quoting his statement that



“Over himself, and over his own mind and body, the individual is sovereign”.

This ploy by the legalisers is a gross misrepresentation, as should be immediately obvious to anyone who reads not just this sentence from Mill, but the sentences which precede and follow it; for example:


“Whenever, in short, there is definite damage, or definite risk of damage, either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of Liberty and placed in that of Morality or Law”.

The problem in these times is that ‘Morality’ and ‘Law’ have become (a) objects of derision and (b) enormously and cynically obfuscated. Offenders have been cast adrift in a sea which has few if any moral landmarks. Chuck Colson, in his paper “The Cultivation of Conscience”(Ref.11) draws out the reality today, that many young felons simply do not know the difference between right and wrong. (As one of my own colleagues, who deals with tough kids put it to me “How can we ask them to be good, when they don’t know what good looks like?”). They are unlikely to find out under the new regime … what our young people are increasingly being encouraged to use as a basis of their behaviour is “Do what you think is right”. This ‘Value Clarification’ approach harms formation of young consciences – and Columbine and Jonesboro are the prices we pray. Colson concludes that Nietzsche’s deconstruction of morality brought not Superman, but people clinging to the wreckage of their values and beliefs, with their only touchstone being ‘It works for me’ .
Norman Dennis echoes this sentiment; in his paper ‘The Uncertain Trumpet’ (Ref.12) he describes how Nietzsche and those who came after him have induced a massive shift from what Nietzsche characterized as an Apollonian culture (reasoned, restrained,seemly and decent) to a Dionysian culture (intoxicated, orgiastic, and orgasmic) – and as an example of this brave new world they have fostered, Norman cites the reports of a British a video shop owner was recently fined £5,000 for selling videos which were not as pornographic as their titles suggested.

Returning to Colson, he further observes that ‘Rationalism’ and ‘Empiricism’ have been blown away, as has the idea of inculcating morality – simply because morality, being based on ‘pre-existing values’ is automatically rejected by the Values Clarification disciples. The result is feral children, ethically and morally abandoned. In what must surely be an ominous precursor of this, Cardinal Newman, as long ago as the 18th century, said:



“Conscience has rights because it has duties… it is a stern monitor, but in this century it has been superceded by a counterfeit … it is the right of self-will”

You might say this means that conscience erects a ‘Stop’ sign when one’s ‘self-will’ is speeding. Without this control system, self-will proceeds onto the assumption that one has a ‘personal right’ to this behaviour, thence to the notion that there is a ‘constitutional right’ to the behaviour, and thus to a pressure to legalise it. This can be seen in several aspects of our culture today; it is certainly not confined to drugs. It would be nice, says Colson, to think that churches would be the ones to hoist the ‘Stop’ signs; sadly too many of them are selling out, panicked by the spectre of dwindling congregations.
On the day that this paper was consigned to the conference organizers, BBC national radio ran an interview with a churchman, exploring why there has been such a growth of attendance in some churches (but not others). The churchman referred to people being unsettled by “… seismic changes to our culture …” which he saw as a primary drive behind them seeking renewed strength and stability in the church. A challenge which demands a response, surely?

And what about ‘the Pursuit of Happiness’? First you have to identify what you mean by happiness; Colson distinguishes between mere shallow gratification and what Aristotle called ‘eudaimonia’; it may sound like an infectious illness, but it actually means ‘ the (consciously) good life’ – fulfilling, balanced and responsible. Clearly, conscience plays a major role in this, and equally clearly the death of conscience leads to tyranny as a means of regulating what will become chaos. It follows that if we do not want to be ruled by tyrants in future, it is in all our interests to promote conscience now. According to Colson, this means going back to what he sees as the three core institutions – family, church and university, and instilling a health-promoting model in all of them.


Counter cultures can be a significant obstacle to prevention. Before you can negate them, you need to understand them. Here are a few examples:

Brazil – $6 is the price of a life. Brazilian senior journalist Olavo de Carvalho delivered a chilling description of life in his country, in his paper “Drug Traffic and Public Policy in Brazil” (Ref.13). Olavo traces the origins of self-serving behaviour back even further than Carl Rogers, – the ‘fountainhead’ mentioned earlier in this paper – pinpointing Hungarian Giorgy Lukacs, a post-Marxist philosopher as a primary source of this thinking. Lukacs in effect argued that in conditions of social ‘Alienation’ and ‘Reification’ – a term coined to describe man viewing himself as an ‘object’ … a ‘cog in the machine’ rather than a sentient being, the individual is justified in putting himself first). So, by this concept, a man is less guilty for personal acts than for those against the class to which he belongs, and there is no evil in the world except ‘conservative morals’ – an object of contempt. Olavo’s paper goes on to give a stark description of life on the streets and in the ‘corridors of power’ in Brazil. $6 is the price you pay in the Rocinha Hills, to have someone killed. Drug barons exercise ‘droit de seigneur’ – but over any woman in the village, at any time. Petty criminals depend on the barons for the loan of weapons and vehicles – and even for the ‘freedom’ of living in a slum. Compared to the power of the barons, the police are a largely marginalised force. The intellectuals have played their part, teaching the young that drugs had a ‘liberating role’ in the struggle against ‘capitalist aggression’. Many criminals recognized that the pickings were richer if they left the world of crime in favour of careers as ‘revolutionary militants’ – it was out of this trend that the Sao Paulo Forum was born, combining legitimate organizations with criminal ones, including the Brazilian President seated at the same table as FARC, the revolutionary army which dominates large swathes of Colombia, and is now said to control most of the cocaine production and export from that troubled country.

Libertarianism – the abuse of John Stuart Mill. This has already been described in Section 5 of this paper.

Harm Reduction and the Abuse of Liberty. My paper ‘The History of Harm Reduction’  (Ref.14), presented in Sweden in 2001, gives a detailed appraisal of how the traditional process of intervention with known users – as part of the treatment process (the stated goal of which remains as abstinence in the British strategy at least, notwithstanding that country’s lurch towards liberalism in other aspects of drug policy) to mitigate the harm that they do to themselves and others, whilst working to bring them to cessation – was deliberately subverted to produce a mechanism for liberalizing drug abuse. In echoes of Olavo de Carvalho’s remarks, it is known that at least one of the ‘inner cabal’ who engineered this stratagem was a Stalinist.

Stalin himself is attributed with the following passage, which very revealingly argues for the use of drugs as a lubricant in social revolution:



“By making readily available drugs of various kinds; by giving a teenager alcohol; by praising his wildness; by strangling him with sex literature and advertising to him or her … the psycho-political preparation can create the necessary attitude of chaos, idleness and worthlessness into which can then be cast the solution that will give the teenager complete freedom everywhere. If we can effectively kill the national pride of just one generation, we will have won that country. Therefore, there must be continued propaganda to undermine the loyalty of citizens in general and teenagers in particular”

Nihilism and the culture of despair. There are probably few western societies that do not have ‘sink estates’ – pockets of poverty in which crime is rife, and often perpetrated by neighbour against neighbour. Boys as young as 12 sell their bodies to pay for drugs; pensioners live in fear of reprisals if they should complain of errant behaviour; police define ‘no-go’ areas for their patrols, ceding control of the streets to the criminals. In these conditions it is hardly surprising that drugs are a way of ‘escaping reality’ – and there is no sign of anyone heeding that guru I mentioned at the start of this paper, and seeking to ‘improve reality’. Journalist Nick Davies graphically describes this brutalized environment in his book ‘Dark Heart’ (Ref.15) – and his criticisms of the failures of successive governments to address the problem are justifiably trenchant. Sadly, Davies has gone on to absorb the distorted arguments of the liberalisers, and suggest that legalizing and prescribing all drugs – including heroin – would improve the condition of the poor. It is hard to comprehend how such illogic gains hold … but it is there, in the ‘journalist classes’ of Britain – as much as the journalist classes of Sao Paulo.
Sexual cultures – whilst there are few statistics to reinforce the anecdotal evidence, it is widely held that drug abuse is prevalent amongst gay lifestyles. Some drugs, such as amyl or butyl nitrite, are said to be favoured by the gay community; it is also possible that drug abuse might be a response to feelings of being a ‘persecuted minority’. At the same time the gay activists are strident campaigners who will pick up any issue that may look to be a useful platform. Thus it was that when Police Commander Brian Paddick was relieved of his post in Lambeth, South London, after unilaterally decriminalising cannabis in his area and then having his (gay) partner claim that he had smoked cannabis in their flat, the issue was not only taken up by the pro-cannabis lobby, but even more forcibly by the gay lobby, who accused the police authorities of homophobia, and characterized the disciplining of Paddick as being not about cannabis policing – but about attacking gay culture. The pro-cannabis groups were quite happy to march behind this unexpected vanguard, illustrating how apparently disparate pressure groups ally under a ‘flag of convenience’.


They have been, but not by as much as they think they are. Despite all the media reports that highlight Britain’s position at the top of the European drug abuse league, and the incessant stream of stories suggesting that every young person is knee-deep in pills, potions and powders, the well-proven fact is that 83% of British youth either never use at all or else give up after one or two tentative tries. Of the 17% who use more than this, many give up in the early stages of their drug use ‘career’. We are a long way from having to run up the White Flag of surrender.

However, a warning note needs to be sounded. Statistics also show that the great majority of young people who do not themselves use drugs, do not care if people in their circle are using, and do not see it as their business to intervene. This substantial absence of ‘positive peer pressure’ is almost certainly holding back progress in reducing drug abuse.

The way to win is perhaps best indicated by Sweden, where an experiment with decriminalization spanning several decades was eventually dumped in favour of a preventive policy coupled with assertive treatment services. The comparison between Sweden today and places like South Australia, where decriminalization is in full swing, are salutary. Researcher Lucy Sullivan (Ref.16) found that in Sweden, lifetime prevalence was one-fifth of that in Australia, use in previous year was one fifteenth, and dependent heroin users were – at worst – no more than one tenth of those in Australia. Other parameters, such as youth dependency, methadone prevalence, drug-related deaths in general and for under-25s were all significantly lower in Sweden.


How can we ‘cultivate the cultivators’ of healthy lifestyles? The longest journey begins with a single step, so Buddha tells us; therefore, let us resolve to take the first few steps, gaining in confidence as we leave each footprint behind. Here are a few ideas:




  • Study this paper’s recommendations, plan any new actions from it
  • Disseminate your own recommendations to others
  • Build ‘more bridges, fewer towers’ – open yourself to other organizations, and actively co-operate with them, rather than competing with them, or starving them of information

Generic activities:


  • Plan structurally – with the ‘Social Ecology’ in mind
  • Audit your strengths and build on them (SWOT Analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
  • Work to the model of ‘Total Health’
  • Advance the concept of ‘Other, not just Self’
  • Expose and dispose of ‘Values Clarification’
  • ‘Cultivate the Conscience’

Improve Reality:


  • Establish primary prevention as main criterion in drug education All education should have prevention in mind
  • Establish improved, rapid access treatment centers Treatment, including mandated attendance, should be available sooner
  • Define and confine ‘harm reduction’ as within treatment, for known users only Pseudo-harm-reduction should be exposed for the sham it is
  • Pro-active Media Strategy Cultivate your media, learn to love them, programme your initiatives
  • Fix ‘Broken Windows’ Restore order and reduce crime by not tolerating even the little things
  •  ‘Prevention Cities’ Follow the San Salvador example
  • ‘Police Get a Pizza the Action’
This title refers to a scheme (Ref.17) in which police co-operated with shopkeepers in a district where fights often broke out amongst crowds of people waiting to be served with pizzas after pubs had closed. The scheme installed ‘ hotlines’ from every pub to the pizza parlours, allowing advance ordering and no-wait distribution of pizzas; result – no crowds, no more fights. An excellent example of ‘problem-oriented policing’.
  • ‘Cool to be clean’ tee shirts, and similar promotions Give your creative people a chance to shine!
  • Music business re-energised with prevention in mind
  • Art and Drama re-energised with prevention in mind
  • Promote products like ‘Life on Sunday’ (the first ever UK national newspaper driven by family values)
  • Support the Prevention Institute Seek out the worldwide family of relevant Institutions

And, of course, we might take strength from the belief that God is on our side – whatever that means for each of you. I once asked a friend of mine, who is a priest, whether I could assume that God was on our side. He replied


“I’m not really authorised to say – I’m only in Sales, not Management!”

But at the very least we can be sure that our efforts in prevention have a high purpose, are altruistic, and tend to enhance the quality of life in a way that is sorely needed in the social and spiritual desolation which typifies too much of society today.
To create something requires spirit and energy – to destroy something requires only a big mouth. We can look at others and criticise – or we can look within ourselves and create value – create something worthy of the life which it is our blessing to enjoy. That is the challenge of prevention.






1. Lofquist WA (1983) ‘Discovering the Meaning of Prevention’ pubd AYD Publications, Arizona. ISBN 0-913951-00-5.

2. Various publications from US Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, DSDSC, 5600 Fisher’s Lane, RW 11, Rockville, MD 20852, USA. (Link via NDPA website)

3. Evans R & Stoker P (2002) ‘Facing the Elephant in the Living Room: Promoting the Healthy Development of Youth whose Parents have Drug Problems’ – available on NDPA website ‘Papers’.

4. Oliver W ‘Parent to Parent training system’. Apply to Passage Group Inc.,1240 Johnson Ferry Place, Suite F-10. Marietta, GA 30068, USA.

5. Stoker P (2001) ‘Moralising … demoralizing; the Fight over Personal and Social Education’. Available on NDPA website ‘Papers’.

6. Dennis N (2003) ‘The Culture of Intoxication’. Available on NDPA website ‘Papers’.

7. Phillips M (2003) ‘The Hatchet-faced Idealists’. See 8. Goldberg B (2002) ‘Bias’ pubd. Regnery, Washington DC. ISBN 0-89525-190-1.

9. Phillips M (2000) ‘The Trouble with the Liberal Elite is that it just isn’t Liberal’ See

10. Dennis N (2001) ‘Drug Legalisation and ‘On Liberty’ – the Misuse of Mill’. For The Salisbury Review. Available on NDPA website ‘Papers’

11. Colson C (2002) ‘The Cultivation of Conscience’. Available on NDPA website ‘Papers’.

12. Dennis N (2003) ‘The Uncertain Trumpet’.pubd Civitas, London.

13. Carvalho O de (2003) ‘Drug Traffic and Public Policy in Brazil’. Available on NDPA website ‘Papers’.

14. Stoker P (2001) ‘The History of Harm Reduction’. Available on NDPA website.

15. Davies N (1998) ‘Dark Heart – the Shocking Truth about Hidden Britain’ pubd. Vintage, London.

16. Sullivan Dr L (1999) ‘Drug Policy – a Tale of Two Countries’ pubd ‘News Weekly (Australia). Available on NDPA website.

17. Davies N (2003) ‘Using New Tools to Attack the Roots of Crime’. pubd. The Guardian newspaper, London, 12 July 2003. Note: this is a useful summary of and commentary upon the Government’s current crime reduction proposals, but it should be borne in mind that Nick Davies is a campaigner for legalizing all drugs, and his writings should be viewed through this optic.

NDPA informally engaged with relevant staff with in the Departments of Health, Education, Home Affairs, Foreign and Commonwealth, Cabinet Office, and MPs and Lords in all parties. NDPA works with other relevant agencies, and with several Police forces. It has a Youth Division. It also works abroad. As an ‘umbrella’ body for Prevention, NDPA is not predominantly engaged in delivering programmes, however it does manage the delivery of specific prevention programmes for primary school teachers, for adolescents in a ‘Peer Prevention’ process, and for parenting skills training. The main focus of NDPA’s work remains the advancement – both in quality and realization of potential – of Prevention.

Contact: PO Box 594, Slough, SL1 1AA, UK. Tel./Fax: 00+44-1753-677917. e-mail: website:



For some time now a feeling has been slowly growing in me that there must be a way to empower ourselves by combining the many disparate elements of our prevention work into a unified whole. We are each of us toiling away at our respective tasks, but low resourcing and constant attacks by our detractors mean that we have little time to take the broad view, to view the structure of the environment in which we work.

I am not alone in currently exploring this area, and in preparing this paper I gratefully acknowledge the work of many others. I make special mention of Emeritus Professor Norman Dennis of Newcastle University, Professor Juan Alberto Yaria of the University of San Salvador, and amongst many eminent journalists, Melanie Phillips and Peter Hitchens of Britain, Olavo de Carvalho of Brazil, and Larry Collins – of many places!

I have no illusions that this paper represents wisdom, but if it provokes you into looking afresh at your working environment; at the influence of culture, and how you might in turn beneficially influence it, then it will have achieved its objective.


Prevention is a much abused word; I would hope you would all agree with one of my most respected mentors, Bill Lofquist (Ref.1) who said:


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