Federal anti-drug campaign will educate youth on ‘harms of illicit drug use’

OTTAWA — A new national program designed to prevent youth from using drugs received $10 million from the federal government Wednesday.

The money is slated to go toward the Drug Prevention Strategy for Youth, a new five-year plan led by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the government-supported national agency for substance abuse. The strategy will target youth between the ages of 10 and 24 and will have several goals: to reduce the number of youth using illegal drugs, to delay and deter the onset of drug use, to reduce the frequency of drug use, and to reduce multiple drug use among those young people who do use.

The funding comes out of the government’s $64-million National Anti-Drug Strategy, launched last fall. Part of that plan includes a two-year mass media campaign by Health Canada aimed specifically at youth. Health Minister Tony Clement, speaking at the Ottawa-based CCSA, said there hasn’t been a “serious or significant” anti-drug campaign in almost 20 years, and one is long overdue. He said the CCSA’s national prevention strategy is key to the government’s plan.

“This project will reach out to young people and will provide them and their parents the plain truth on the harms of illicit drug use,” said Clement. “We will discourage young people from thinking there are ‘safe’ amounts, or ‘safe’ drugs. And we will highlight the fact that, for young people, having clear and unimpaired judgment is a safety issue,” the health minister said.

The CCSA’s strategy will complement Health Canada’s media blitz with a new consortium media corporations, marketing and advertising agencies, youth agencies and parent groups. It will reinforce many of Health Canada’s messages, but on a wider platform, and with high-risk populations targeted.

According to the CCSA, the average age a Canadian tries an illegal drug for the first time is around 14 or 15, so prevention messages need to start as early as 10 years of age. Sixty per cent of illegal drug users in Canada are 15 to 24 years old, according to the national substance abuse agency, and young people are the most likely to use and abuse substances, and to experience harm as a result.

Source: Canwest News Service January 31, 2008

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