Cannabis, also known as Marijuana or weed is a commonly used illegal substance in the United Kingdom (UK) today even among persons under the age of 18 research shows (Rcpsych.ac.uk, 2017)
Presently, young people in the UK are likely to smoke cannabis as cigarettes which impacts negatively on their mental health and the community at large. Peer pressure to use drugs especially cannabis is high among young persons and its continuous use increases the risk or probability of them experiencing mental health symptoms and disorders. (Dearden, 2017).
Hence the need to educate young persons about the detrimental impact cannabis and other illicit drugs can have on their health.
The target audience for the leaflet designed as part of this assignment is adolescents (young persons aged 12 – 18).
Young person’s use of cannabis or weed is on the ascendancy even though it is a harmful illegal substance. This group of people have no true knowledge of what it contains as they buy them from drug dealers and those addicted to it risk getting physical health and emotional wellbeing issues such as poor concentration, slow reaction times, panic attacks, mood swings and isolating themselves from friends and family (JOHNS, 2001). There is the need to create awareness about the dangers of cannabis to adolescents in the UK and how it affects their mental health to reduce the risks it may pose to their health and wellbeing and to deter them from using it. About 60,000 people suffer from mental health problems which are caused by weed in the UK (The Sun, 2016). This causes more admissions to mental health facilities, causes more distress and has negative cost implications on health services (The Sun, 2016) thus making it a significant public health issues that needs to be addressed. The more people especially adolescents who use cannabis realize the need for them to quit, the better it will be for the society as a whole; there will be a reduction in drug related crime and accidents, poor human relations associated with its use will be reduced, and a healthier and happier life for all.
PREVALENCE OF CANNABIS USE AMONG ADOLESCENTS
Adolescents in the UK are more likely to have tried cannabis or are regular users of cannabis. Almost 40% of adolescents revealed they had tried cannabis and other illicit substances, the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) revealed. (EPHA, 2017)
Another survey, by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, revealed that among15 year olds in the UK, two in five have used cannabis. These statistics could mean that parents or adults in the UK are setting a bad example for their children in relation to cannabis use because young persons are likely to emulate the behavior of the adults they live with. It could also mean that some adolescents do not have the willpower to say no to cannabis and other illicit substances or try it out of curiosity and end up becoming addicted in the end.
The use of cannabis occasionally leads to an increase in social adjustment and skills in young persons. However, regular or heavy use of cannabis at an early age is associated with numerous negative outcomes such as poor physical and mental health, having unprotected sex, and dropping out of school.
20,032 adolescents were treated for drug (including cannabis 68%) related health problems during 2012 – 2013. This proves that cannabis is the most frequently used illegal substance, with 15.8% having used it in the last year (around 975,000 young persons). (DrugWise, 2017)
Despite these health problems posed by cannabis use, herbal cannabis seems to pose less harm as compared to other illicit substances but long term use of strong cannabis (skunk) could lead to later developing mental health problems like schizophrenia.
GOVERNMENT POLICIES TO DISCOURAGE THE USE OF CANNABIS AND OTHER DRUGS
2010 policy: drug misuse and dependency
This paper comes up with strategies for helping young persons from becoming drug misusers. It places importance on encouraging adolescents to live healthy lives and making them know the dangers of drugs misuse of which cannabis is included. It goes on to suggest drug services to adolescents early enough if they do encounter drug problems.
The strategies are as follows:
- supporting children in the early years of their life so that we reduce the risk of them engaging in risky behaviour (like misusing cannabis) later in life.
- providing accurate information on drugs and alcohol through drug education.
- making it easier for school authorities to take action against pupils who are found dealing drugs in school.
- through the Business Rates Retention Scheme (which includes what was the Early Intervention Grant), giving £2 billion to local councils, between 2014 and 2015, which they can use to create programmes to help prevent young people misusing drugs in the first place.
- helping young persons who have problems with drugs by giving them treatment and support, including supporting them in other areas of their life (for example with housing or mental health problems), so that they don’t return to drug use as a way of coping with these problems.
The 2016 drug strategy gives us an opportunity to finally address the deficits in access to mental health services, jobs and homes, which have undermined the recovery aspirations of the 2010 strategy.
The strategy successfully reframed the treatment system around recovery as an organising principle. The balance between ambition and evidence established a new consensus about best practice, steering clinicians to use opiate substitution therapy (OST) to provide a gateway to recovery for everyone who could take advantage of this opportunity. It also gave a secure place to build motivation and capacity to change for those not yet able to take the next step. This enabled the treatment system to promote recovery at the same time as continuing to deliver crime reduction and public health benefits.
THE TARGET GROUP
The target group for this resource is:
- Adolescents (young people aged between 12 and 18).
- Male and female
- Living in the UK
- Attending school and living at home with parents or guardian.
- Users of cannabis or those thinking of experimenting cannabis.
This group of people living in the UK are very vulnerable in our society. They lack a sense of direction from parents (who may be cannabis users themselves) (Hidden Harm, 2003), guardians in care settings who have limited powers to prevent the young people in their care from being introduced to cannabis use or addiction and are also at high risk of exposure to cannabis use because they want to make friends or feel accepted amongst their peers who may be habitual users. It is often very difficult for them to say no or reject the use of cannabis because they have no basic knowledge about cannabis or are not informed of the short and long term effects it may have on their mental health and body. Also, those already addicted to cannabis are at greater risk due to their possible increase in preference of stronger versions of cannabis which could trigger psychosis. The leaflet therefore provides an easy to read, handy information and facts about cannabis to young persons and provides reasons why they must avoid/stop its usage, the side effects of cannabis and the benefits of quitting the habit of smoking cannabis.
In designing the leaflet, careful consideration was taken to make it attractive and readable by adolescents or young persons aged around 11 years. (http://www.literacytrust.org.uk)
The words ‘QUIT SMOKING WEED’ is written in bold to catch the attention of the reader who sets eyes on it. Also, there is a smaller writing in red asking if cannabis users know that quitting is good for their health? There is also a cannabis leaf with a stop symbol on it printed on the front page.
Different shades of green were used to design the leaflet mainly because cannabis is herbal based and it is green in its leafy form. ‘Weed’ is also written in the colour representing the dry form of cannabis that is usually smoked. The other bright colours used are colours known to attract the attention of young persons and this is aimed at catching the attention of that age group who prefer to scan through leaflets and it is hoped that they may go on to read the entire information provided. (Ecolourprint.co.uk, 2017)
Cartoon images are also attractive to young persons hence the images on the inside page of the leaflet which depicts a young person, with other little images which symbolize the changes the body goes through when one smokes cannabis or the possible physical and mental health state of a cannabis user.
Some positives about the design of the leaflet are:
- Cheap and easy to produce
- It does consist of relevant information about cannabis for adolescents and the health benefits of quitting its use.
- Does not take much time to read
- Knowledge or message it contains can be easily shared with family and friends.
- It reinforces information out there regarding the laws governing cannabis use and its potential effects on one’s mental health.
The design of the leaflet also has some drawbacks:
- Unless the picks it up to read, it could remain unused.
- It can easily be misplaced or lost.
- It may do more harm than good when the target audience decide to experiment rather than the message deterring them from cannabis use.
- It could have been produced in other formats for those who are visually impaired etc.
Messages about drug usage and its harmful side effects on its user, the society, the environment and the world at large sent to adolescents and the general public must be clear and consistent. (www.official-documents.gov.uk)
Adolescents, their parents and guardians, must take the necessary steps to refrain from cannabis use and tackle problems related to cannabis use. Help, advice and support must be made available and accessible in ways that are sensitive to an individual’s age and circumstances, and attempts must be made to reach and help vulnerable people who have a high risk of developing severe mental health related and public health problems. Prevention should start early, with broad life-skills approaches at primary school, and built on over time with appropriate programs for young people as they grow older through youth work, peer approaches, training and wider community support. The aim is for approaches to be better integrated nationally and locally. (DrugWise, 2017). More Rehab clinics and therapy centers should be opened in local communities with high usage of cannabis and other illicit drugs to make it easier for drug abusers to seek professional help to quit.
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