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Knowing someone cares

Most important factor in addressing youth drug use

Published: 18 May 2016

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Knowing someone cares rated most important factor in addressing youth drug use

A new report aims to shape the way helping agencies work with at-risk young people, in an effort to reduce harm from alcohol and other drug use.

The report, ‘Knowing Someone Cares’ was launched by the Community Action Youth and Drugs (CAYAD) team at Auckland Council, in a programme funded by the Ministry of Health. It provides an insight into some of Auckland’s most vulnerable young people and their experiences with alcohol and other drugs.

“For many of the young people interviewed, feeling like they didn’t have anyone who cared about them led them to care less about themselves, which they felt led to increased alcohol and other drug use,” says the report’s author, Kate Duder.

She says that consequently realising someone supported and cared for them enabled them to take steps towards quitting alcohol or drugs.

“Many felt that their behaviour was very visible yet no-one said or did anything about it. In the eyes of some of these young people, getting told off for truancy or drug use would have let them know that someone cared.”

The report was generated from a study into the alcohol and other drug experiences of at-risk young people (aged 14-24) in West Auckland, to better understand and creatively document a snapshot of their lives. The project was supported by alcohol and other drug support services including Odyssey and ABACUS Counselling Training and Supervision. The findings are expected to help inform policies and influence practices and interventions that support the reduction of those harms.

Early experiences impact how the young people make sense of the world and influence their decisions later on.

“Parents, siblings or extended family most commonly supplied alcohol or drugs which resulted in that young person’s first harmful experience (drinking to excess or taking drugs). Using substances was seen as a normal part of life due to having seen their parents or older siblings use,” says Kate.

A quarter of the young people interviewed said that their mental or physical health had been affected by their parents’ drinking.

“While this report focuses on at-risk young people and doesn’t explore the experiences of mainstream young people, it is concerning that our most vulnerable young people are being exposed to and using alcohol or other drugs at crucial developmental stages in their lives, with the potential for lifelong consequences,” she says.

The report detailing the study’s key insights is intended to be shared by community organisations, youth service providers, government agencies, policy makers, whānau and interested members of the community.