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Drug education ‘totally outdated’

Wednesday, 7th August, 2019 5:01pm

A leading drug awareness campaigner has said there is a critical need for a better drug education system in Ireland after a teenager died after taking a substance at a music festival in Cork.

Nicole Ryan, who lost her brother Alex after he took a synthetic drug in 2016, this week criticised Ireland’s system for informing young people on drugs as “flawed, non-factual” and using “scare tactics”.

Ms Ryan was speaking following the death of 19 year old Jack Downey, who passed away on Monday after he fell ill after consuming a substance at the Indiependence Festival in Mitchelstown over the weekend.

Appealing to people to “reserve judgement” and think of Mr Downey’s family and friends, Ms Ryan said major changes were needed in Ireland’s system of educating young people on drug use.

“Schools are totally reliant on teachers to teach their students about drugs, teachers who don’t have answers for a lot of questions. The general education that students might receive from their teachers is also often very different in the city compared to rural schools,” she told the Cork Independent.

Ms Ryan’s brother Alex died on 23 January 2016 after taking a synthetic drug of the 2C family called 251 NBOMe, known as ‘NBomb’ while at a party.

She has since launched a programme on drug awareness, which is set to be piloted in some schools from this September.

It was revealed earlier this week that the Government would introduce a ‘three strikes’ system of penalising drug users in 2020. Those caught with drugs for personal use will be referred to a health worker by gardaí, and will not be formally arrested unless they are caught on a third occasion.

Ms Ryan said the language used to educate on drugs in schools was “totally outdated” and “not relatable” for most students.

“Information needs to be factual and unbiased, and include more information on why people actually use drugs rather than just telling people not to do them and leaving it at that.

“There needs to be continuous education from external sources as opposed to teachers, so people can make educated choices.”

A post-mortem took place this week on the body of Mr Downey, who was from Clonmel. The results of the post-mortem are not expected to be known for a number of weeks.

Indiependence issued an alert warning of a “bad batch of something” on the campsite on Friday, after Mr Downey had been transferred to CUH after complaining of feeling ill.

Funeral details for Mr Downey were yet to be confirmed as of going to print. A garda investigation in relation to his death is ongoing.

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