Wednesday, April 29th, 2009
Steve Doughty of the Mail (20 04 09) reports that a drug advice helpline are to be investigated, after apparently teenagers were advised to use cannabis.
Indeed Ministers launched an investigation into the Government’s drugs advice hotline after teenage callers were told to use drugs.
It is reported that advisers at the FRANK helpline have condoned cannabis smoking by a 13-year-old youngster, and it was suggested to a 15-year- old who said she had experimented with ecstasy that she could go on taking it.
Young teenagers were told alcohol is more dangerous than cannabis and one worried caller was repeatedly counselled not to tell the parents of a cannabis smoker about his drug-misuse.
Essentially, what requires consideration is that the organisation is in receipt of £6.5million per annum and has been in operation in excess of six years and has been at the heart of the governments fight against drug misuse, particularly the young and impressionable.
However, advice given by supposed experts manning the organisation’s 42-hour helpline criticised government drugs policy and encouraged youngsters to break the law.
A spokesman for the Home Office, which runs the FRANK operation in tandem with the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, said: ‘It is completely unacceptable for a FRANK adviser to be giving out wrong, misleading and inaccurate information.
‘We are urgently looking into the matter and will identify the person or persons involved and take action.’
She added: ‘FRANK is an important resource for young people who need help and advice about drugs.’
The organisation is by no means new to controversy. Back in 2003, it was attacked by its critics for taking a very liberal approach when communicating the dangers of drugs to the young. A good example of this is the website headline ‘cannabis carries mental health risks only for those with an existing history of these problems.’
More alarming was the fact that undercover reporters posed as teenagers and made calls to the helpline. Their findings were that 75 of the advisers promoted drug use.
Such was the extent that one caller pretended to be worried about a youth taking cannabis, he was told, ‘If you use it a couple of times it doesn’t have to cause any problems.’
A caller posing as a 15-year-old girl who had tried ecstasy was told: ‘It’s not going to affect your health.’
In addition and compounding the problem was the fact that the adviser was ignorant to the fact that ecstasy was a class A drug. It has been reported that the caller was also told that she could smoke cannabis after taking ecstasy.
The Sunday telegraph callers that the advice was given to has provoked anger among opposition politicians and drug experts.
Chris Grayling shadow home secretary declared, ”The idea that the Government’s helpline should be saying to young people “go for it” shows that the Home Office is all over the place in its approach to drugs.’
Campaigner Mary Brett of Europe Against Drugs said: ‘When I was a teacher my pupils were getting these sorts of answers when they called FRANK.
‘These advisers seem to be completely ignorant. They do not seem to have been trained at all. I cannot imagine where the Home Office found them.
‘This is incredible advice for a government service to be giving.’