Anti-drug campaigners have decided to get dramatic about the possible risks of cannabis consumption.This content was published on February 19, 2003 - 07:58
The Swiss Institute for Alcohol and Drug Prevention (SFA) has made a short drama film on the subject for schools across Switzerland.
'Zoff mit Stoff' (Trouble with Stuff) tells the story of a school trip which begins in nightmare fashion for one boy, when he leaves his bag - complete with a stash of cannabis and his identification card - on the train.
The events that follow convince the teachers of the need for a frank discussion of the truths and myths surrounding cannabis.
"It's the first time we've tackled this subject using a fictional story," says project leader Sabine Dobler. "We think drama is a good medium with which to reach young people. It allows for an emotional engagement with the subject and can also help the audience to identify with various characters in the film."
If statistics released by the SFA itself are anything to go by, quite a few young Swiss will be able to identify with the cannabis-users portrayed in the film. According to the institutes's figures, some 50,000 Swiss youngsters smoke cannabis regularly.
Those opposed to further increases in cannabis consumption have hardly been helped by recent moves to legalise the drug.
In December 2001, the Swiss Senate voted overwhelmingly in favour of a government proposal for the legalisation of cannabis, leaving the House of Representatives to make a final decision on the issue.
But despite the increasing likelihood that cannabis consumption by adults could soon be legalised, the SFA insists that young people should still be informed about the risks which it says are inherent to cannabis smoking.
"There has been a lot of misinformation on this subject, with people claiming that cannabis is harmless," says Dobler. "But tests have shown that cannabis can be psychologically addictive - even physically addictive in larger quantities.
"There is also a proven impairment of concentration levels, which can obviously be particularly detrimental for those in school."
The SFA's position has been backed up by the Swiss Teachers Association (LCH) which recently voiced its concerns over the rising number of cannabis-related problems being faced by its members.
According to the LCH statement, "the number of complaints about students who are coming to their classes 'stoned' is on the increase, and teachers are not prepared simply to accept this as part of the process of liberalisation."
While admitting that prohibition will not necessarily lead to a reduction in the number of youngsters smoking cannabis, the LCH said it shared the SFA opinion that the best policy would be for the government to maintain the current ban on the consumption and trafficking of cannabis.
One point on which the SFA and LCH might yet differ, however, is on the use of teachers to tackle drug-related problems.
The SFA video is accompanied by a number of work sheets and exercises, with the film itself seen merely as a starting point for deeper discussion in the classroom.
While recognising the responsibility of teachers to explain the dangers of drugs to their pupils, the LCH is calling for more specialised help in schools, pointing out that teachers are not trained therapists.
Without such external assistance, the teachers' association is worried that drugs use will continue to rise in Swiss schools, with the possible legalisation of cannabis making anti-drugs education an even tougher proposition.
swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Zurich
The film tells the story of a school trip which takes an unexpected turn when a pupil mislays a stash of cannabis.
The 18-minute drama was filmed in separate French and German language versions.
Schools can obtain the video via the SFA website.
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