Module 5: young people, society and AOD: learner's workbook

2.2 Values and attitudes to AOD use

Page last updated: 2004

Alcohol and drug use in our society is not a neutral issue. It is strongly influenced by the attitudes and values common in society. It is not unusual to pick up a newspaper or turn on the television on almost any given day and hear about or see a story relating to the 'dangers' of drug use.

Our beliefs and attitudes have been influenced to at least some extent by the messages portrayed by the media and society more generally. It is important then, that we are aware of our own values and attitudes and the impact that they may have when working with young people.

Some drugs might be more socially acceptable in Western society than others (e.g. coffee or alcohol versus heroin or cocaine), but all of these substances are drugs nevertheless. It is important to realise how pervasive our attitudes are in relation to drugs and drug use.


Rate these statements on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most disturbing to you, 1 being the least disturbing. Use each number once only.
  • A man with his family at the beach, drinking from a beer can

  • A 14-year-old smoking a joint at a party

  • A woman shooting up heroin in a flat with her children playing in another room

  • A well-dressed businessman staggering blind drunk out of a major international hotel

  • A 13-year-old girl chain smoking

  • A young man shooting up heroin in a public toilet

  • A 15-year-old girl staggering blind drunk in a local park about to throw up

  • A 16-year-old male prostitute soliciting for gay men to get money for drugs

  • A senior youth worker taking a dose of Valium during the lunch break

  • A drunk young man getting in a car to drive home.
Can you identify any themes coming through? What are they? Can you draw any conclusions about your attitudes? (You may like to compare your responses with those of your friends or colleagues.)