Support For Young People Affected by Drugs or Alcohol

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How many young people use drugs?

Most young people don’t use drugs or drink problematically. When they do it can be for a range of reasons; to fit in, to help them feel more confident, to numb emotions, because they are curious or simply because they enjoy the feeling of being high or drunk. 75% of young people never use illegal drugs, but those who do generally experiment with cannabis, with a small percentage getting access to and trying class A drugs such as cocaine. Some young people acquire ‘legal highs’ many of which are dangerous drugs, yet unregulated, and use them in the belief they are less risky. 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.

In a whole school, about 11% of at 14/15 yrs have tried cannabis but only 2% will use cannabis regularly. 55% have used alcohol and about 10% will get drunk regularly. It is important that all young people understand the risks and consequences of using drugs and alcohol but some young people need extra help and support to address a range of issues that may be impacting on their substance use, and in turn, how that use impacts on their life. With luck and good judgement many young people move on from this experimentation towards adulthood. Some may experience harms or unplanned consequences. A minority will develop problematic drug or alcohol use. Experimental drug use (including alcohol misuse) is known to peak at 14/15 years and then again at 18/21. Throughout these times more problematic drug users may be concealed within group behaviours but some young people will show signs of substance use that falls outside 'normal social behaviour' and their problematic use begins to emerge more clearly. All young people should receive drug and alcohol education that addresses the realities of their life, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and self-belief to refuse drugs and excessive drinking. Those who are more at risk (see "Who is at risk") will benefit from early identification and intervention, through referral to a specialist service and/or additional targeted support and education sessions in school.

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.

D-Vibe Schools are able to get an idea of which drug, if any, young people come across or have tried, by doing the d-vibe survey to anonymously collect information. This helps them to get the approach and relevance of their approaches right, as well as helping them to plan and evaluate their drug education

Vulnerable Young People

For a significant and often vulnerable minority (around 4%) 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.

Getting Support for Young People in Nottingham

In Nottingham City we have specific early intervention drug workers, called Education Link Workers, assigned to all schools and an enhanced level of support is provided for all DrugAware schools. This helps to ensure that staff feel 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 5 years with impressive results, lowering exclusions, intervening earlier and reducing treatment times.

In Nottingham, CGL Journey Young People's Drug and Alcohol Service are our partners in delivering DrugAware. Other areas will vary.

Early Identification

There are a number of ways to help you ascertain if a young person is at risk around drug/alcohol use:

  • The Ngage assessment toolkit
  • Assessment with School Drug Worker
  • Discussion and collection of information from variety of sources or other assessments (multi-agency team)
  • Through incidents or report involving risky behaviours

Early intervention can improve young people's outcomes in a number of ways;

  • Identify developing patterns of behaviour and substance use and intervene before they escalate.
  • Ensure young people have other ways to deal with problems in their lives.
  • Help young people understand the risks and consequences of their drug/alcohol use with a view to being safer.
  • Keep young people from being excluded or absenting themselves from education.

Services to Support Young People Affected By Substances

You should refer to these services if you have concerns about a young person in relation to their own, or someone else's substance use.

Early Intervention means:

  • Acting on professional concerns around alcohol or drugs - Not waiting for problems to escalate into incidents.
  • Always responding to incidents with a referral to the school drug worker (regardless of any sanctions imposed)
  • Providing opportunities for young people to reflect on their relationship with substances and access services if they are concerned.
  • Good relationships set up with school drug worker, school nurse, pastoral staff and SLT
  • Making the use of school-based services an ordinary part of school life, health and wellbeing.

Change, Grow, Live

Change, Grow, Live - School Drug and Alcohol Workers

 (Education Link Workers)

Change, Grow, Live a Young Person's Drug and Alcohol Service,
2 Russell Place,
Nottingham, NG1 5HJ
Referrals can be taken over the phone on 0115 948 4314

Referral form (.doc)
Information (.pdf)
Incident training

Support for young people affected by their own drug and alcohol use.

In Nottingham we have specialist drug workers who work with early intervention in schools. You can use your allocated worker for advice, assessment and referrals. Young people can also refer themselves. Change, Grow, Live can also provide incident training for DrugAware Schools (book training)

Explore Family

Support for young people affected by other people’s drug and alcohol

200 Mansfield Road,

Tel: 0115 9787161
Text: 07873 339519


Working hours: Mon, Tues & Fri 9:00 - 3:00

Referral Form (.doc)
Referral Guide (.pdf)
Hidden Harm Movie

Explore Family supports families and individuals in Nottingham City who have been affected by someone else's drug and/or alcohol misuse. They work with partners, carers, children and young people, both one to one and in group and family settings. Explore Family can provide training for school staff on the affects of drugs and alcohol on young people.

Who is at risk?

Any young person can experience risk from drug use or drunkenness but some young people may be more vulnerable to substance use.

  • Young people from families with a history of drug/alcohol misuse/addiction
  • Those looked after in local authority care
  • Truants and excludes
  • Those living with normalised messages around substance use.
  • Those living with emotional challenges (bereavement, abuse, sexual identity issues, low self esteem)
  • Risk takers
  • Those involved with crime/criminal gangs