The West

Shock ads to warn teens about drugs

Drug-ravaged faces, a teen in a body bag and details of poisonous ingredients are among the confronting images students are using to warn about illicit narcotics.

As part of an innovative pilot project created by Peel Sen. Const. Tam McKeown, Comet Bay College Year 10 to 12 students made TV advertisements to educate other teenagers about the consequences of using illegal and synthetic drugs.

Sen. Const. McKeown said young people were often reluctant to accept safety advice from adults for anything from drugs to road safety because they regarded it as "preaching".

"This project empowers them to educate other teenagers because they know the mindset of the age group and what will resonate," he said.

Teacher Matt Potts believed the teenagers had learnt a lot about the dangers of drug use through their research to create the films and had adopted a negative attitude towards drugs.

"We've also had students opening up to teachers about drug issues they had previously had with friends and family - so that's positive to have that communication," he said.

The most recent Australian School Student Alcohol and Drug Survey: Illicit Drug Report found that 16.3 per cent of students aged 12 to 17 reported using at least one illicit drug in 2011. More than 29 per cent of students aged 16 and 17 admitted using drugs that year.

The report said drug use was responsible for about 80 deaths in WA each year.

In 2010, West Australians were taken to hospital 5644 times for conditions related to drug use, costing about $30 million.

Year 12 student Madelyn Veenstra said she believed the project was worthwhile and the messages were more likely to be listened to when coming from someone of similar age.

Murdoch University lecturers taught the students about the power of social media and how to research and sell a concept. Local drug action groups and School Drug Education and Road Aware also provided information.

The 34 student videos are on YouTube and many students, including Madelyn, have marketed theirs on social networking sites and even websites of non-profit organisations.

The 10 films that get the most YouTube hits will be judged by a media industry expert.

Students have a chance to win media work experience.

Sen. Const. McKeown hopes to expand the project to other schools next year.

The West Australian

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