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Tagged In:  Drugs

According to a research study conducted by Addaction, a member of the Young People’s Health Partnership, in conjunction with TONIC, a leading organisation in policy and research, many young people are engaging in drug use especially NPS.

The report, titled, “Novel Psychoactive Substances Insight Report: The View from Young People,” included 1,604 online survey responses and 20 telephone interviews of individuals in England under 25 years of age.

The purpose of the study was to understand the perspectives of teenagers regarding drug use, accessing information about NPS and seeking treatment for drug use and addiction. Then, use this information to provide suggestions to those working with adolescents. 

If you are a substance misuse worker or a youth offending officer these findings may be of interest to you.

Some major findings of the study include

1. Percentage of youth who had used NPS and other drugs 

More than half of those who responded to these questions on the survey answered ‘yes’ signifying that there is a very large problem with NPS use despite the Psychoactive Substances Act 2016 banning the supply and production of them.

Have you ever tried any new psychoactive substances or "legal highs"? Such as Spice, Nitrous Oxide, Black Mamba, Bath Salts etc.

Not to mention, almost 75 percent of those who use/used NPS also use/used illegal substances such as cannabis, MDMA, cocaine and ketamine regardless of potential drug charges.

2. Frequency of NPS use

Although only eight percent of the sample who responded to the question use NPS every day, almost half use NPS occasionally. 

3. Why teenagers use NPS and where they use them

There is significant research to suggest that many juveniles turn to drugs after experiencing mental health issues. Yet, this study suggests other reasons why some may choose to take NPS.

Among the many options, ‘To have fun,’ was the most common at 73 percent. With this, many who started out using them for ‘fun’ ended up becoming or feeling addicted to NPS. 

Why do you use "legal highs"?

The study also suggested that teens prefer to use NPS because they are sometimes less-expensive than marijuana or cocaine.

4. Danger perception of NPS by youth as compared to other drugs

One alarming conclusion from this research is that although 58 percent of the teenagers surveyed believe that “legal highs” are more dangerous, many still use them.

Sixteen percent even believe that they are safer than other drugs. This is likely because of how they are portrayed commercially.

5. Percentage of youth who believe people who use “legal highs” would come to a drug or alcohol service for help

Many acknowledged that they have an addiction and would want help, but did not want to receive help from a recognised service provider in person because of confidentiality concerns. Therefore, most would not access support. 

Do you think young people who use "legal highs" would come to a drug or alcohol service for help?

Potential Suggestions

With all that considered, what could be done to improve communication with young adults about drug use and treatment?

Online/anonymous mediums for initial contact 

In the survey, privacy and trust were of much importance to teenagers. They primarily wanted to receive support through a medium that is not face-to-face including online chats, text messages, phone calls or emails. The young adults surveyed also felt it was the best option specifically before receiving consultation from someone in person if they decided to take that route.

In fact, Dorset Healthcare recently launched a SMS initiative for young people 11-19 to seek confidential advice and support on many topics including alcohol and drug use.

If a service like this is implemented UK wide, the quantity of young adults who seek assistance or come forward to admit a drug addiction may increase. The long term impact could result in a lower likelihood of continued drug use and reduce the number of adults in prison for drug use in the future.

Open up/suggest communication/support by someone in drug remission

Credibility and relatability is important to teens. They want to hear from those who have lived through drug addiction and gone through drug rehabilitation.

One male said:

“Shock people – before and after photos – my mate who hung himself he was a top lad and then he went to living in squats with heroin users, not washing, losing their teeth. Get people to go into school, people who have been there – so they know in advance – get it into their heads when they’re younger.” (Male, 23)

This could mean that adults on probation for drug use could do community service hours educating students about drugs. 

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