Tackling Drugs and Alcohol through early identification
It is important to remember that the majority of young people do not regularly use illegal drugs. About 24% will try an illegal drug before they are 25 years old, and many of those will not continue after these early experiments which can peak in the early teen years or with the first experiences of independence. Over half of all young people will use alcohol regularly by the time they are 18, some regularly and some to excess. Hopefully young people will be able to get through these risks unharmed; hopefully many will not feel that drug use is the kind of risk that will benefit them.
For a significant and often vulnerable minority, drug and alcohol use will be more problematic, affecting their emotions, attainment, self image, health and inclusion. Use may stem from a variety of factors; normalisation, peer preference, emotional illiteracy, low self esteem, a sense of invulnerability or low aspiration. For these young people, if left unchecked, drug and alcohol misuse can escalate, seriously impacting on their lives, setting a path towards unrealised potential, criminalisation and ill health. The underlying causes, personal expectations and beliefs attached to drug use, coupled sometimes with a lack of understanding or care of the consequences or alternatives, make them vulnerable to escalation and problematic drug / alcohol use as a normalised part of their lives, sometimes with devastating outcomes.
DrugAware places emphasis on how a school responds to these vulnerabilities, encouraging an early intervention approach and providing the means to identify and intervene early. Where the recommended approach is embedded we see lower rates of permanent exclusion, lower rates of re-offending and higher rates of engagement with ongoing support from specialist agencies, coupled with better staff understanding of how to deliver targeted programmes that are effective in addressing the underlying issues that may drive drug use. Ultimately the aim is to; ensure that young people understand drug use in the context of their lives, explore their resilience and broaden their aspirations and understand how substances may be detrimental to achieving their goals.
In Nottingham City we have specific early intervention drug workers assigned to all schools and an enhanced level of support is provided for all DrugAware schools. This helps to ensure that staff are supported to identify and make appropriate referrals and to identify the content of, and plan to, deliver target lessons and sessions in school.
This approach has worked as an integral part of learning centres and support units in schools for the past 3 years with impressive results.
In Nottingham Lifelong journey are our partners in delivering DrugAware. Other areas will vary.