Alcohol and Other Drugs

Alcohol and Other Drugs

It’s common for young people to experiment with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (AOD). 

The average age of initiation to illicit drug use is 19 years.[1] However commonly used legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol contribute toward the most harm among people.[2] Although AOD use is risky it’s important to remember that just because a young person is experimenting or is exposed to AOD, this does not necessarily mean they will become AOD dependent.[3]

 

Young people are a key population group to target in order to sustainably reduce AOD harm in the community. In partnership with AOD and other allied services, youth services have an important role to play in helping young people to minimise AOD related harm. It is the responsibility of the entire service system to develop strategies to effectively respond to these issues. By working together, services and sectors can take many practical steps to better support and improve the health and wellbeing of young people and their families affected by AOD issues.

Alcohol and Other Drugs

Overview

It’s common for young people to experiment with alcohol, tobacco and other drugs (AOD). The average age of initiation to illicit drug use is 19 years.[1] However commonly used legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol contribute toward the most harm among people.[2] Although AOD use is risky it’s important to remember that just because a young person is experimenting or is exposed to AOD, this does not necessarily mean they will become AOD dependent.[3]

Young people are a key population group to target in order to sustainably reduce AOD harm in the community. In partnership with AOD and other allied services, youth services have an important role to play in helping young people to minimise AOD related harm. It is the responsibility of the entire service system to develop strategies to effectively respond to these issues. By working together, services and sectors can take many practical steps to better support and improve the health and wellbeing of young people and their families affected by AOD issues.


[1] National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (2004) 2004 National Drug Strategy Household Survey.

[2] Drug Info Clearinghouse (2002) Drug Prevention in the Community. Australian Drug Foundation.

[3] National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (2004) What About Young People and Illicit Drugs? Factsheet 2.

Ways of Working

Engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Young People

People who work with young people are well placed to discuss AOD use with young people. Providing accurate information about the risks associated with AOD use allows young people to make informed decisions while taking into account the genuine risks associated with AOD use. Perpetuating myths or providing misinformation hinders young people’s ability to engage in safer practices or take responsibility for their choices.[1] Below are some tips that may assist workers when talking to young people about AOD. 

  • It is important to have a general understanding of AOD. You should know the main categories (depressant, stimulant, hallucinogenic, etc) and how they fit together.

  • It may take time for a young person to trust you so it is important that you demonstrate that you are not judgemental, that you are informed and that it is a safe space for them to ask questions.

  • Many young people are poly drug users, meaning that they use more than one or a combination of AOD at the same time. Despite this, many young people are unaware of the effects that mixing AOD could have. It is important to consider poly drug use when discussing the risks associated with AOD use.

  • Remember that you don’t have to be an expert to talk to young people about AOD. Sometimes we can feel like we have to pretend to know things when we don’t. However, providing misinformation can be very dangerous and could cause harm to the young person and your service. The best way to prevent this is to keep up to date on training and get your information from credible sources such as those listed under more information in this section of the Big Red Book. Always follow up with information that you could not provide on the spot and you may want to provide additional and reinforcing material such as brochures.

  • Young people require information relevant to their individual needs and experiences. It’s important that a number of factors are considered prior to providing AOD information. These include: prior knowledge, age, reason for seeking information, level of AOD use and what supports they may require[2]. Make sure that you listen to the young person, that you take their responses seriously and let their questions guide the conversation.

  • Often workers feel pressured to disclose their personal history. This is not necessary to develop rapport with the young person.

  • Present a balanced view. Think about your personal views and find out how this might be influencing your support. AOD information should seek to assist young people to make informed decisions, not to make the decisions for them. You should not simply tell young people what to think about AOD, but it should provide them with the information and tools that enable them to think it through themselves.

  • Don’t just focus on the AOD use but look at the wider context. Remember that many young people have had experiences of AOD use in their family.

  • There is currently a shift in thinking in relation to tobacco, in workers smoking around /  with young people. It is important for workers to be aware of organisational policies relating to tobacco.

It is important that you acknowledge you cannot force a young person to address their AOD use. You can support the young person to identify issues and their priority over time. For example, a young person may choose to prioritise housing before addressing AOD issues.


[1] Australian Drug Foundation (1996) Young Drug Users Slip Through the Gaps. Melbourne.

[2] Australian Drug Foundation (2001).

More Information

ACT Alcohol and Other Drugs Sector Project

Coordinated by the Youth Coalition of the ACT

A capacity building project that aims to build the capacity and identity of the AOD sector in the ACT, foster intra and cross-sectoral relationships, and improve outcomes while maintaining respect for the diversity of services and for people who are affected by AOD. Activities include a monthly eBulletin, monthly forum, the Annual ACT AOD Sector Conference, ACT AOD Workers Group meetings and ACT Drug Action Week Planning Group meetings. Other initiatives of the Project include the Minimum Qualification Strategy, Review of AOD Written Materials for Young People in the ACT and the Comorbidity Project. The Project ends 30 June 2010.

Phone: (02) 6247 3540

Web: www.aodsector.org.au

Email: [email protected]

ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy
The draft ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy 2010-2014 replaces its 2004-2008 predecessor and has been developed to this point in consultation with the ACT Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Strategy Implementation and Evaluation Group that is representatives of the community sector and ACT Government agencies charged with overseeing the implementation and evaluation of the predecessor Drug Strategy and with input from key stakeholders in the ACT’s alcohol and other drug sector.
Email: [email protected]

Web: www.health.act.gov.au/c/health?a=&did=11061849

ACT Alcohol and Other Drugs Services Directory  

ACT Alcohol and Other Drugs Sector Project, Youth Coalition of the ACT

The ACT AOD Services Directory aims to support workers to make referrals to AOD services in the ACT, increase cross and intra-sectoral knowledge and foster collaborations. It also aims to better communicate the diverse range of services and programs in the ACT AOD Sector. The Directory contains over 35 program profiles, and is updated biannually. 

Phone: (02) 6247 3540

Web: www.aodsector.org.au 

Email: [email protected]

Australian Drug Information Network (ADIN)

ADIN search results are from 1500+ quality assured sites to ensure the most comprehensive search of Australian and international AOD information. AOD professionals have critically reviewed websites for credible and useable contest.

Web: www.adin.com.au

Centre for Youth Drug Studies (CYDS)

Australian Drug Foundation

Youth specific research arm which aims to develop effective drug policy and prevention programs within a variety of community settings.

Web: www.cyds.adf.org.au  

Drug Info Clearinghouse

Australian Drug Foundation

Offers a range of services, including many free information products such as AOD specific fact sheets, a special library, a telephone and email information service, a website, and email alert services for people interested in drug prevention.

Web: www.druginfo.adf.org.au

Drug Laws in the ACT and NSW

The Youth Law Centre has produced a brochure on drug laws in the ACT.

Phone: (02) 6262 7077

Web: www.youthlawact.org.au

ACT Policing has information available on drugs and the law in the ACT.

Phone: (02) 6256 7777 (switchboard)

Web: www.afp.gov.au/act/drugs_alcohol/drugs_and_the_law

Queanbeyan, NSW have different AOD laws

To find out more about the laws in each state and Territory visit Lawstuff, a national youth specific site developed by the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre.

Web: www.lawstuff.org.au

Koori Drug Info

Australian Drug Foundation

Aims to build capacity among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities by increasing the relevance and accessibility of DrugInfo Clearinghouse information and services.

Web: www.kooridruginfo.adf.org.au

Multicultural Drug Info

Australian Drug Foundation

AOD information targeting culturally and linguistically diverse workers and communities. This website has a Victorian focus, however, it also includes general information.

Web: www.druginfo.adf.org.au/multicultural

National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre (NCPIC)

National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)

Aims to reduce the use of cannabis in Australia by preventing uptake and providing the community with evidence-based information and interventions. It offers services to a range of target audiences including a free Cannabis Information and Helpline.

Phone (Helpline): 1 800 30 40 50  

Web: http://ncpic.org.au

National Drug Research Institute (NDRI)

Conducts and disseminates high quality research that contributes to the primary prevention of harmful drug use and the reduction of drug related harm in Australia.

Web: www.ndri.curtin.edu.au

National Drug Strategy Website
Australian Government
This website contains information about the National Drug Strategy and advisory structures that support the strategy; links to current drug campaign sites with information on initiatives at national, state/territory or community levels; key research and data components supporting the strategy; publications; and key links to relevant government, professional organisations and drug-related portal sites.
Web: www.nationaldrugstrategy.gov.au/internet/drugstrategy/publishing.nsf/Content/home

National Drug & Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC)

University of New South Wales

A multidisciplinary research centre providing general drug information, a bibliographic database, research projects, an Annual Symposium, workshops and monthly research seminars, and a free quarterly newsletter.

Web: ndarc.med.unsw.edu.au

OxyGen

Quit SA

The only Australian website dedicated to informing young people about tobacco and its use in Australia. Web: www.oxygen.org.au

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