Drug and alcohol awareness training is very often one of the most popular courses organisations and providers can offer. The reason being is that it represents an issue that everyone has experience of, and everyone has an opinion on. But too often drug and alcohol awareness training is commissioned by organisations as little more than a tick box exercise and with so many providers in the marketplace how can you be sure that the training you have commissioned is appropriate for your workforce?

This is a drug…

At its worst drug and alcohol awareness training has consisted of endless representations of drugs, either the drug box (psychical representations of substances) or pictures.

Trainers would then go through an exhaustive list of drugs, their effects, signs and symptoms of use, etc, etc.

Whilst understanding the basics of drugs and their effects is useful, in my experience this does not represent a good use of time, consequently a poor use of your money.

What then?

To become competent in the effects of drugs does not actually take long. Numerous websites and books exist that can bring you up to speed pretty quickly, we are not talking in depth knowledge of the neurological impact of addiction here.

Like many subjects, some trainers possess a rudimentary grasp of the subject and rely on that well known crutch, PowerPoint, to ensure they cover all they plan to.

Personally I have always felt rather short changed by this approach to training; if it is a purely superficial introduction to a subject I seek surfing a few websites will in most cases suffice.

The value of bringing in a trainer is in the added value and subject knowledge that they bring, the ability to engage with and motivate participants to explore the subject.

The reality of the situation is many providers offer a generic approach to numerous courses, with trainers delivering many, whilst not being a specialist in any.

This raises numerous problems for the customer not least the fact that the training probably does not meet the intended outcome, a deeper understanding of the subject area.

What is effective?

Effective drug and alcohol training needs to look beyond just the drugs and delve deeper, often the drug use itself is symptomatic rather than causal for the person concerned.

We need to consider many elements to effectively support those with problematic relationships with alcohol and drugs.

Effective training should include elements such as treatment options, assessment of need, screening, reasons for use, role of the family, harm reduction, employment and education and associated risk and protective factors as a minimum.

We must accept that drug and alcohol use/misuse is a complicated and difficult issue to address, we cannot hope to support complex clients with simple solutions, and I’m afraid simplistic and superficial training falls squarely in the latter category.