Cannabis and Harm Minimisation Drug Education: Findings from the Drug Education in Victorian Schools Study

Leanne Lester, Richard Midford, Helen Cahill, Johanna Mitchell, Robyn Ramsden, David Foxcroft, Lynne Venning

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    Aims: To evaluate the effectiveness of an integrated harm minimisation focused school drug education programme in terms of reducing cannabis use and harm.

    Design and Methods: A cluster randomised controlled trial of the 18 lesson Drug Education in Victorian Schools (DEVS) drug education programme was undertaken with students during years eight and nine (13 and 14 years of age respectively), with follow up in year ten (15 years of age). The programme covered all drugs, employed a harm minimisation approach that used participatory, critical thinking and skills based teaching methods, and engaged parental influence through home activities. Twenty-one secondary schools in Victoria, Australia, were randomly allocated to receive the DEVS programme (14 schools) or the drug education usually provided by their schools (7 schools). In relation to cannabis, communication with parents, lessons remembered, responsible attitudes, whether used, frequency of use and associated harms were measured.

    Results: In comparison to controls, there was a significantly greater increase in the intervention students’ communication with parents about cannabis recall of cannabis lessons received, and responsible attitudes towards cannabis. While there were no significant differences between the two study groups in relation to the proportion of cannabis users, the increase in level of use by intervention students was significantly less and they experienced a lesser increase in associated harms.

    Conclusion: A harm minimisation focused school drug education programme reduced the level of cannabis use and associated harm. This supports harm minimisation education as an effective prevention strategy for school students.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-7
    Number of pages7
    JournalJournal of Addiction & Prevention
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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