Pubdate: Mon, 26 Jun 2000
Source: Irish Times, The (Ireland)
Copyright: 2000 The Irish Times
Contact:  11-15 D'Olier St, Dublin 2, Ireland
Fax: + 353 1 671 9407
Author: Emmet Oliver, Education Correspondent, TEACHERS SAY PUPILS MISS SCHOOL OVER HANGOVERS

The abuse of alcohol is so widespread among young people that it is
"commonplace" for pupils to miss school completely or fail to participate in
class because of hangovers, second-level teachers have claimed. The teachers
say that while heroin abuse is confined to a small number of young people,
the abuse of alcohol, cannabis and ecstasy is common throughout the State.

The teachers call for a shift in Government policy from concentrating almost
exclusively on deprived urban areas where heroin is prevalent to also
tackling the problem of soft drugs and alcohol in every "town and village
across the country".

The Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland (ASTI) says abuse of alcohol
is "far more widespread than other forms of drug abuse." The statements are
part of the union's submission to the Government's review of the national
drugs strategy. The teachers want alcohol to be part of the strategy because
it has become such a major problem.

The ASTI in its submission says the current drugs strategy understandably
concentrates on heroin abuse in deprived urban areas. However, it says that
since 1997, when the strategy was agreed, there is abundant evidence that
the availability of soft drugs outside these areas has increased and "more
young people are at risk of substance abuse".

The ASTI general secretary, Mr Charlie Lennon, said there was now abundant
evidence of the widespread availability of soft drugs and alcohol among
secondlevel students. "Cannabis, ecstasy and alcohol are available in every
town and village across the country," he said.

The most recent ministerial report on demand for drugs indicated higher
levels of illicit drug use by Irish and British youth than by their European
counterparts, he said. Irish teenagers also experienced substance abuse at a
younger age, frequently under 15 years.

Mr Lennon said large numbers of teachers were tackling drug abuse,
particularly through programmes such as home-schoolcommunity liaison, the
stay-inschool scheme, school pastoral care initiatives, and the introduction
of new social and health education syllabi.

However, he also stressed the need for a more comprehensive and co-ordinated
approach to drug abuse in second-level schools.

"All teachers must have access to training which will provide them with the
necessary skills and knowledge to respond to young people at risk of drug
abuse. Schools also need adequate resources and specialist teachers to
support their role in reducing the risk of drug abuse in our communities,"
he said.
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