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Schools to use 'influencers' to deter drug use

By Adam Hale, Press Association

Teenagers are to be used as "influencers" in order to discourage their classmates from taking drugs in the UK's biggest trial of a school-based drug prevention programme.

The three-year scheme will see pupils nominate the most influential students who will then be trained to hold discussions about drug use with their peers.

The Frank Friends programme will be run across 48 schools in the West of England and South Wales from September, involving 5,600 Year 9 students aged 13 to 14.

Students in the top 17.5% of nominations as the most influential in school will be asked to become peer supporters.

They will undergo two days of training and then be expected to have conversations about the potential harms of drug use with their peers over a 10-week period.

Half the schools in the programme will continue with their usual timetable, with the aim of evaluating the effectiveness of a peer-led drugs prevention programme in schools.

The scheme is being led by researchers from both Cardiff University and Bristol University.

Dr James White, of the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University, said: "There is limited evidence that drug prevention interventions are effective. The latest UK data indicate that 37% of 15-year-olds have tried an illicit drug and more than 13,000 11 to 18-year-olds accessed drug treatment in the UK.

"Schools provide a systematic and efficient way of reaching a large number of people every year. This randomised controlled trial is the best way to determine if the Frank Friends intervention prevents drug use among young people."

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