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Substance misuse and young people

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New Book Alert

Professors Ilana Crome (Drug Science Trustee) and Richard Williams have recently released their latest book – Substance Misuse and Young People: Critical Issues.

This book is a comprehensive source of information on young people’s requirements for assessment, treatment and other interventions because of their misuse of substances. It highlights approaches that enhance understanding of the routes that lead young people to substance misuse and also the routes away from it.

The emergence of new substances and methods of misuse makes this ever more relevant. The authors are international experts in the fields of psychiatry, paediatrics, medicine, psychology, genetics, resilience, neuropharmacology and epidemiology.

This book acknowledges how widespread both substance misuse and psychiatric disorders are and explores the complex, and challenging links between co-occurring conditions. Use of substances is associated with illness and premature mortality, and more so for people who have combined disorders. The authors consider the fundamental need for intervention during adolescence and early adulthood. They provide detailed clinical views of the psychosocial interventions and medications currently available and illustrate them with case studies that emphasise adolescents’ experiences and thoughtful lifestyle-specific interventions.

This book provides theoretical knowledge and specifies the practical skills that practitioners require for work with young people who misuse substances. It is highly applicable to medical practitioners, psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, police officers, probation officers, educationalists and related social and healthcare professionals.

Drug Science recommends this book, it can be purchased from Amazon or other online retailers

What’s so significant about young people and their drug use?

Over the last two decades, there has been a growing awareness of the nature and extent of substance misuse by young people. Indeed, the risks of substance misuse are magnified during adolescence and the three primary causes of adolescent mortality – injury, suicide and homicide – are all associated with substance misuse. Moreover, adolescents’ use and misuse of substances are commonly found to be comorbid with psychiatric conditions and, therefore, require special attention. Thus, prevention and reduction of substance misuse by young people are key targets in the UK and international policy.

It is now well documented that young people use and misuse a vast array of legal and illegal substances. This is a major issue for public and personal health. However, the nature and extent of use of different substances vary greatly over time, in different countries and within different populations in any one country. Most young people who drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes or use illicit drugs do not suffer serious harm, but the problems of the minority that do so in their adolescent years can be difficult to manage. In addition, some people may continue to use substances for the entirety of their lives.

New substances and new issues continue to arise. The emergence of novel psychoactive substances, for instance, which are available through the Internet, and the increase in deaths related to their consumption, are a relatively new cause for concern. Many of these drugs are designed to mimic the effects of traditional substances, such as cocaine, ecstasy and cannabis. Often, they are perceived as safe to consume though they may be very toxic. Other recent phenomena include the popularity of e-cigarettes (vaping), and the changes in the legal status of cannabis in an increasing number of countries. Thus, professional healthcare practitioners must be aware of the ever-evolving landscape of substance use.

Consequently, there has been an increasing emphasis on detecting, understanding and preventing misuse, and intervening with young people who use substances harmfully and developing multifaceted services. We, along with other practitioners, researchers and policy-makers, recognise that there is a deficit in the theoretical knowledge and practical skills required by diverse professionals to intervene effectively with this group of young people. These include the variety of medical practitioners and other related social and healthcare professionals, as well as psychologists, pharmacists, social workers, police officers, probation officers and educationalists who are cognisant of the need for improved expertise in the management of this group of young people.

Thus this handbook is designed to provide a comprehensive systematic review, detailed examination and synthesis of the theoretical and practical knowledge framework in substance-related disorders in adolescents and young people, and support in the acquisition of practical skills for working with adolescents.

In conclusion, this book brings together two enormously important topics. The first concerns how people cope with growing up in adolescence and early adulthood and the challenges they face. The second is the manner in which young people use and misuse substances and the impact of those substances on them. While this book covers the nature of adolescence briefly, the central core of this book deals with the substances that young people may use and misuse. It appraises some vitally important matters that impact on young people’s relationships with substances and their clinical needs, before considering the implications of these topics for caring for and treating young people. Our intention in drawing together these topics is, first, to advance understanding. Second, we are keen to promote approaches to caring for and treating young people who are in a developmental period that is crucial to their future lives. We do this by presenting a picture of certain strands of evidence gleaned from psychological, pharmacological and social science approaches, which we should consider when setting policy, designing and funding services and providing clinical care.

ACMD public evidence gathering

This critical piece of literature could not come at a better time. The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs has recently called for a public evidence gathering day specifically relating to young people’s drug use to help inform their upcoming report.

Three more ‘evidence gathering days’ planned to take place:

  1. Glasgow, Friday 27 March

  2. London, Thursday 14 May

  3. Cardiff, Wednesday 17 June

Drug Science recommends that those with expertise in this field register their interest in attending or providing oral or written evidence to the ACMD Secretariat ( We sincerely hope that the testimonials of experts will help the ACMD advise the government to implement evidence-based drug policies. Find out more here. 

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