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Narconon Drug Education, Monday Dec 18th

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The Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Programme:
Theory and Background

Illicit drug and alcohol use is a fact of life in today’s society. To use or not to use such substances is a decision which all young people must address for themselves at an early age. Governments, schools and social programmes have attempted to forestall such abusive behaviour by young people through school and community based programmes as well as broad advertising campaigns, taxation and law enforcement. Yet the continued presence of substance abuse by youth in this country is unquestionable testimony to the fact that we need to ado a more effective job for the sake of our young people and the well-being of our society.

Despite the efforts and concerns of many and the varied approaches utilized to address this issue – ranging from abstinence to harm reduction – the fact remains that we need to make our anti-abuse efforts more effective than they generally are today. Narconon’s Drug Abuse Prevention Program is a supplemental program designed to increase the effectiveness of existing anti-abuse programs by providing substantive information which young people can understand and utilize to make personal, informed decisions regarding their use of such substances.

The Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program provides a distinctive format for the presentation of information to pre-adolescent and teenage students. Presenters are trained in a flexible approach which engages students at their level of understanding and conceptual ability. The goal is to present factual information which students can and will use to decide for themselves whether or not to use drugs and alcohol.

The program is based on the proposition that when young people are provided with accurate facts about drugs and alcohol and about the potential impact of such substances on their physical, mental and emotional health, they will reach their own informed decision concerning their use or not of such substances. Starting from this premise, the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program has been refined through the experience of presenters who have spoken with young people through classroom and school presentations for more than three decades. During this time the presentations have been made to more than 2,100,000 students in the United States, Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America, Africa and Asia.

The program is designed as a supplemental presentation to support the substance abuse program that a school is using as its basic drug prevention curriculum. Its presentation is designed to provide information which is either lacking or not clearly presented in other alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention formats.

The program, although it involves lectures, is not a didactic approach. The high degree of interaction which the presenter develops with the young people is, in fact, a key feature of the program. This is a a point which is stressed in the training of presenters as it is well recognized that students must be interested and engaged for learning to occur (Tobler & Stratton, 1977). Fundamental to Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention is the understanding that the program's effectiveness is dependent first upon engaging the cognitive processes of the students. They must be interested and the delivery process must be sufficiently interactive to ensure their engagement with the materials. Even the most salient materials will lack impact if no one is listening. Thus, presenters are trained to establish a very personal rapport with the students and to maintain their interest by focusing the presentation on their experiences, such as what they have observed personally or seen in the drug use of others. Without in any way glamorizing drug use, presenters in fact do the opposite by discussing the actual long-term deleterious effects of drug abuse. The presenter overtly or implicitly asks the students to think about people and situations in their environment or experience. The creation of a free and open atmosphere where students can question and get their concerns answered is also a vital part of the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Presentation. Though this process, the student is brought forward to an understanding that the material being discussed is relevant and credible.

Information-based programs too often focus on the negative. Scare tactics tend to be ignored by teenagers and rendered null for younger children as their subsequent experience proves the information to be overly simplistic - or even patently false. Information as imparted in the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program is different. The presenter does not tell the student what to do or not to do. The focus is on the actual mental and physiological consequences of the substance use. The presenter ensures that the students relate to the information being discussed, encouraging them to examine it and compare it to their own observations. The thrust of the program is to develop in the student the ability to make his or her own informed decision. A lasting impact will be achieved only when the student makes such an informed decision and when the facts upon which that decision rests are ones that the student will continue to hold true in the fact of his or her subsequent experiences.

Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention presenters are trained so that they can cogently present material regarding a wide range of drugs. There is, however, no single presentation which is unvaryingly followed, for three reasons, First, there are very considerable differences in the cognitive skills of pre-teens and those of teenagers. Second, there is likewise a great difference in the awareness and experience of drugs between the two groups. And, thirdly, students in classes of the same grade in different schools or areas present very different problems and concerns. Thus, as the presenter interacts with the students, the nature of their questions and the level of their argumentation skills necessitate different approaches for different groups.

The impact of drugs on the body and mind is at the heart of the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program. The program presents that drugs are essentially toxic substances. It helps the student understand that a drug might have both a positive and a negative impact.

Presenters recognize that students have an interest in illicit substances as a source of recreational enjoyment (to "have fun" to "get high") or for a variety of other reasons. The presenter must be able to help the students understand what they may perceive to be positive effects of drug use and to encourage the students' understanding of the costs associated with such short-tem benefits.

The presents helps students understand the impact of such illegal or illicit, abused substances. The presenter also helps students to become more aware or appreciative of possible long-term consequences of illicit drug use, including possible negative effects from drugs which may remain stored in the body for different periods of time. As the emphasis in all presentations is on a high degree of interactivity with and among the students, the level of sophistication of the presentation of this information necessarily varies. The concern and effort in regard to such materials is that the student needs to have an understanding of both the short and long-term consequences of the use of illicit substances.

From a continued monitoring of satisfaction surveys, it appears that the achievement of this awareness in the students is central to the effectiveness of the presentations. Students who recognise that there are negative costs inherently associated with the apparently positive features of drug use are more able to evaluate for themselves whether or not to use drugs. Moreover, this framework for understanding the costs and the benefits of drugs enables them to view drug use in their environment in a different manner. For example, they can see both the "high" which their friend may obtain from ecstasy, and also the difficulties that the friend experiences when the drug wears off. From this perspective, they are less likely to consider only the ostensibly attractive side of drug use.

Also fundamental to the program is its emphasis on providing the student with accurate information to facilitate the students' own decision-making process. The presenters are trained to always answer questions honestly and in a manner that the student understands. As students are frequently interested in the apparent positive effects of drugs, the preliminary desirable physical or emotional effects are often discussed, including what occurs that appears to create that impact. But the presenter will also ensure that the student understands the consequent detrimental effects of the drug. The presenters never tell the students not to do drugs. Rather they seek to provide the student with the information upon which to make his or her own decision.

The program understands that single, stand-alone presentations do not produce sufficient "dosage" of information that it will likely be retained as long as it needs to be. Therefore, the presentations are generally repeated at least yearly and with more sophisticated data as the students mature.

Preliminary analyses of after-presentation surveys have shown that students do understand this concept and find it and the material presented concerning the effects of drugs to be meaningful information upon which to base their future decisions (Beckman, S.L. and Chapman, S.L., 1989).

The basic information which presenters use is neither new nor controversial. It is taken from such sources as the descriptions of illegal substances found on the websites of organizations such as the National Institute of Drug Abuse, SAMHSA and ONDCP as well as scientific studies of the disposition of drugs and toxins in the body.

Presenters provide students with information on the longer-term effects of drug use so that they can think with the consequences of such actions. One such presentation element concerns the retention in body tissues of certain drug metabolites and their potential for interaction upon the individual at times after the original use of the substance. This is a widely accepted fact supported by a growing body of evidence from the scientific community.

It is the view of the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention program that its presentations would poorly serve students if it were to fail to alert them to these dangers, given the evidence of adverse events and potential for long-lasting public health issues. The message that drugs contaminate the body and that this has consequences is essential for students to know. Accordingly, they are given information that there is much evidence that drugs store in body tissues and organs for a period of time and one should this contemplate that what one puts in his body today may not be gone tomorrow. Satisfaction surveys done after the presentations show consistently that this message is understood and considered by students to be important information which they had not learned elsewhere.

In summary, the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention program is distinctive in its focus. It places emphasis upon the presentation of factual material in an interactive manner which takes into account the cognitive abilities and skill level of the students. Its helps students make their own informed decisions regarding drug and alcohol use. It does not utilize "scare tactics" but rather addresses the issue of drugs and drug use from a rational perspective encouraging students to fully consider the long term consequences of their decisions, not just apparent momentary benefits. The program seeks to provide students with information and understandings which will enable them to make personal, informed decisions not to use abusive substances.

The role of the Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention Program is to supplement a school's alcohol, tobacco and other drug curricula. It provides students with information that they can use in thinking about such substances, which will provide them with a factual understanding that will support their choices through the years. It is our belief, founded upon satisfaction survey results, post-presentation discussions with students and teachers and follow-up contacts (including requests for subsequent presentations and referrals to other schools) that Narconon Drug Abuse Prevention presentations provide young people with needed information and strengthen their decisions to avoid future substance abuse.

Respectfully,

Clarke R.N. Carr
President Narconon International

Gary W. Smith
Executive Director Narconon Arrowhead

For more information about our drug education programme please contact us.

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"Drug education has a vital task in countering this, but it will only succeed if it has the goal of abstinence - rather than leaving choices about illegal activities to young people."
Peter Stoker
Giving Youth A Chance