£1m campaign to stop British teens from taking coke
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The UK government has launched a £1m hard-hitting campaign in the hope of warning British teenagers off cocaine. But a 16-year-old in the country tells us it won't stop her from using the drug. Read more and see the campaign videos...
The UK government has launched a £1m hard-hitting campaign in the hope of warning British teenagers off cocaine. But a 16-year-old in the country tells us it won't stop her from using the drug.
Five percent of 16 - 24-year-olds use cocaine in the UK, and overall, the numbers of people taking the drug have doubled in the past decade according to British Crime Survey. In an attempt to stop teenagers from looking up to icons like Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty, the British Home Office has launched a £1 million (€1.15m) campaign fronted by a dead dog. A drugs mule brought back to life, "Pablo" goes on a gruesome mission to find out the truth about cocaine. A few heart seizure, personality disorders and bloody noses later, Pablo comes to the conclusion that cocaine is not a good idea. But will he manage to convince 15-year-old Brits the same thing?
"Too much cocaine can cause seizures and heart attacks, even if you're perfectly healthy"
Pablo witnesses a heart seizure.
"I'm going to get in your blood baby cos I'm a bad baggie"
A bag of cocaine tries to seduce Pablo.
"A prospective 15-year-old coke-user might dismiss it because they see it as being too childish"
Isobel (not her real name) works to socially rehabilitate drug addicts as part of a government programme. Many of her clients began taking Class A drugs at an early age. She prefers to remain anonymous.
Firstly, this campaign comes far too late. Young people need to know about the risks of drugs from the age of eight to ten. There are some people who start taking Class A drugs from the age of ten in the UK. Of course this isn't everyone; these are the ones who get involved because they work as runners or they're exposed to drugs in their family life. There are then those who take drugs because they feel there isn't anything else to do. Many of my clients tell me that they were simply bored as teenagers, which is why they started taking drugs. And this can start already at the age of 12, 14, 16.
This isn't the only problem with the campaign. I'm also surprised they haven't mentioned cocaethylene [taking cocaine and drinking alcohol at the same time], because there is such a huge drinking problem with young people in the UK that the two often go hand in hand. Many people take coke when they drink because they say 'when you're too drunk, have a bit of coke to sober you up', and then they feel they can drink more. But the two together create a dangerous toxin, which then creates a highly-deadly combination when mixed again with the alcohol and cocaine. That's something that young people need to be told and yet it isn't even mentioned in the Pablo campaign.
Finally, there has to be a fun element in teaching young people about drugs - and in this case you can see that they've used a dog to do this. However, a prospective 15-year-old coke-user might dismiss it because they see it as being too childish. In Poland for example they have anti-drugs days when there's a huge carnival-type procession through the city - and they make it fun. It carries the message 'we're trying to sort this problem out together' - it's a public affair, something openly discussed, whereas to look at a website and phoning a secret number is a private thing, which makes it taboo."
"I know the dangers of it briefly, but they don't worry me"
Kate is a 16-year-old from Nottingham, England. She prefers to remain anonymous.
I started taking drugs when I was 14, and coke when I was 15. A friend offered me a line and I liked it, so I keep on doing it. I know the dangers of it briefly, but they don't worry me. I do ketamin, speed [amphetamines] and weed too. I used to do pills too but the comedown's horrible and it makes me feel sick anyway. I don't take much coke because it's too expensive. It costs £40 a gram [€45]. So it's for one-offs. I go out to clubs and house parties, everyone's on drugs; all my friends take coke.
The Frank ads make me feel a bit sick and make me think it's a bit nasty. But the dog's a bit stupid. It wouldn't stop me. I'd only stop if one of my friends got really addicted or something really bad happened. I'd rather be told not to take drugs from a person sat face to face with me; someone's who's experienced it going wrong.
I'm not addicted to any drugs, it's just what we do for a laugh. I didn't start because of peer pressure, I started because I wanted to. It's so easy to get hold of too. You get the name of a dealer from a friend of a friend, and when you want something, you just make a call. Twenty minutes later it's there. I don't drink though. None of my friends do. We prefer to get high than get pissed. My parents don't know about me taking drugs. They'd kill me."
"What's the big deal with coke?"
Here's the campaign's introductory video, when Pablo comes back from the dead to find out he's been used to smuggle cocaine into the UK. Pablo is voiced by British comedian David Mitchell.