Doctors Welcome Federal Government Anti-Drug Campaign – 30 March 2001

The Prime Minister’s initiative to call on the parents of Australia is a welcome and overdue strategy in the attempt to reduce the use of illicit drugs by young Australians, the Australian Doctors’ Fund announced today.

“The parents of Australia need all the support they can get to help their children from falling victim to drug abuse. This campaign will put the problem of illicit drugs firmly on the agenda of every Australian household,” said Mr Stephen Milgate, Executive Director of the Australian Doctors’ Fund.

Contrary to popular belief parents can out compete peer group pressure and influence their child’s behaviour. Dr Michael Resnick from the Adolescent Health Programme at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA, commentating on a study on adolescent health published in the Journal of the American Medical Association supports strongly the conclusion that the central determinant of social behaviour by adolescents is the strength of emotional attachment to parents and teachers.

Dr Resnick described the study as follows:

“It’s the largest, the most comprehensive adolescent health study ever done in the world. In the United States it included an initial sample of about 91 thousand kids in seventh through twelfth grade, and then we followed a core group of about 20-thousand kids over a one year period of time again, a nationally representative sample.” “…what the study did is to challenge a widespread myth that we have in the United States, which is that once a child has moved from early childhood into adolescence, what parents say or think or do or hope or dream for their child, somehow no longer makes a difference. And many parents in this country, and I suspect in Australia as well, feel that once a kid has reached adolescence, they must surrender that child to the peer group – and in fact that is not the case.”

Mr Milgate said, “This study reinforces the need for public policy on illicit drug use to concentrate on empowering and importantly, encouraging, families to positively influence their child’s behaviour in relation to illicit drug use.”

“We have had widespread public campaigns on the detrimental effects of tobacco and alcohol abuse. It is now time to have an even bigger campaign on the detrimental effects of illicit drugs.”

In 1989, under the Chairmanship of Dr Bruce Shepherd, the Australian Doctors’ Fund ran a national conference, “Drugs, the Law, and Medicine”. Since that time the Australian Doctors’ Fund has constantly called for an anti-drug campaign of the same scale as the anti-tobacco campaigns.”

“We believe the Federal Government is now delivering on its promise to boost drug prevention in Australia but it is only the start of turning around the biggest problem confronting Australia’s’ youth,” said Mr Milgate.