A Comparison of Drug Knowledge Between Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary School Pupils.
(2017) A Comparison of Drug Knowledge Between Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary School Pupils., no. 46.
Background: The Curriculum for Excellence, the current national curriculum implemented in Scottish schools, offers little in the way of drug education. Choosing primarily to focus on alcohol and tobacco misuse, the framework fails in delivering a broader and comprehensive drug education syllabus to pupils at every level of schooling. Secondary school pupils, and adolescents in general, are a particularly vulnerable and impressionable group of individuals. Therefore it is essential for them to be equipped with up to date and reliable information about drugs. Research, in the area, links several factors to adolescent and long term drug abuse. Some of these factors include early contact with drugs, peer pressure, neglectful parenting style, socio-economic background, and overall lack of drug knowledge. Whilst incidence of adolescent drug use is decreasing, in 2013, drug misuse incidents cost NHS England approximately £488 million. Thus, it is still considered a critical public health issue. Adolescent drug knowledge, of UK pupils, is an area of research which is decidedly scarce. Objectives: To compare, at what level, secondary school pupils, know more about legal, illegal, and addictive drugs, the social implications of taking drugs, and what is missing when it comes to their own drug education. Specifically those who are in lower and upper secondary school. Design: Prospective schools, North Berwick High School (lower secondary) and Carnoustie High School (upper secondary), were first contacted by email. Schools were given a brief overview of aims and objectives in order to verify their participation. A questionnaire was then developed, based on previous research, consisting of 18 qualitative and quantitative questions presented in various formats. Questionnaires were sent to both schools and adapted based upon feedback, participation from schools was confirmed. Information sheets, parent, guardian, and participant assent forms were sent to schools and consent was sought. Questionnaires were then delivered to pupils by a designated teacher. Upon completion, questionnaire data was collated and analysed using independent samples t-test for parametric data and an independent samples Mann-Whitney test for non-parametric data. A total of 63 questionnaires were completed. Males accounting for 43% and females accounting for 57% of study population. Results: Significant differences were observed in the level of knowledge between lower and upper secondary school pupils with regard to identifying illegal (p = .002), legal (p = .015), and addictive drugs (p = .000002). Upper secondary school pupils displaying greater knowledge over all three aspects. Pupil's in upper secondary school also believed legal highs to be significantly more dangerous than pupils in lower secondary school (p = .001). Significantly more females believed medicinal drugs to be completely safe (p = .027) when compared to males. Conclusion: Upper secondary school pupils appear to exhibit a greater knowledge and understanding of drugs. There is inconclusive evidence to suggest that gender is a variable of drug knowledge. The Curriculum for Excellence drug education programme could be reviewed to ensure that pupils of all years, and ages, maintain an adequate level of drug knowledge throughout their school career. Future research should apply longitudinal study formats to obtain greater understanding of changing adolescent perceptions, behaviours, and knowledge of drugs. Keywords: drug knowledge, drug education, secondary school, adolescents.