Fighting the Glamour of Drugs; A Huge Anti-Drugs Campaign Was Launched in Birmingham Today Aimed at PR Eventing Children Falling Victim to Heroin or Crack. Mail Education Corresponde Nt TONY COLLINS Looks at the Daunting Challenge It Faces

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IMAGES of drugs barons in flash cars and racy lifestyles are proving a major obstacle to Birmingham's unsung heroes as they seek to combat the soaring menace of the drugs trade.

Like many things which today's youngsters are repeatedly told to steer clear o the seedy world of drugs would appear to hold an inevitable fascination.

It is a problem which drug education workers such as Martin Donovan know they have to overcome if Britain does not slide into the same drugs mire which has bedevilled America for years.

Martin, who has worked in the drugs field in Birmingham for 11 years, is only too aware that attitudes are the biggest obstacle he and his colleagues face.

But it as much the attitudes of adults as those of their children that need changing.

He says: "A lot of youngsters see drug use as a positive thing. They go for the image, not the reality.

"They see it as some sort of right of passage to be able to join this private exclusive club of the drug user.

"People often see the twilight world of criminality as being a cool, slightly glamorous thing.

"It was just like that with CB radios. People were attracted to them when they were illegal, but the interest soon trailed off once the ban was lifted."

"But part of the problem also rests with the attitudes of adults.

"Most of them come from totally different backgrounds and see the drugs problem as being down to this mysterious grey pusher.

"Adults need to question their view before they can start working with youngsters."

The drug education strategy will have two other key goals: to improve children's personal skills so they are better equipped to make an informed choice about drugs; and to train people who work closely with youngsters - from teachers, youth and probation workers to scout and even church groups.

But the main role of the new campaign will be to bring all the different agencies together - both to train workers on everything they need to know about drugs AND to collate a city-wide database for future use.

"We need to equip them for the job ahead, and that includes teaching them both the street names of drugs and their prices," he says.

Clearly it would appear to be time to put an end to the type of 'Just Say No' campaign which has been a feature of the anti-drugs message in the past.

Scare tactics

"Scare tactics are not good drug education practice," adds Martin.

"Instead of telling young people that one Ecstasy tablet means instant death, we might do better with a more honest approach.

"Hopefully, the training will result in slightly more empathy with young people. For a long time adults haven't really listened to them."

The feeling persists that the city, just like the rest of the country, is at the crossroads in its fight against drugs.

"Around half of all 16-year-olds have already tried illegal drugs, whether it is cannabis or heroin. But even more worrying is that children as young as seven are now experimenting.

"To me, the biggest fear is that the age is getting lower. If something isn't done now then the drugs problem in this country is going to reach the level in the United States.

"Britain isn't that vastly different to America and that should worry a great deal of people."

SIDE BAR

EDUCATION 'SHOULD START AS YOUNG AS 5'

THE drug education strategy was being officially unveiled at the Dome II nightclub in Horsefair, Birmingham.

Five hundred Birmgham pupils were joining drugs and health care professionals for a joint presentation focusing on young people's attitudes towards drugs.

The nightclub was chosen to show that music and a club atmosphere can be enjoyable without drugs.

Health authority and city council officials are joining forces with the police, probation service and drugs charities to form a seven-year action plan. …