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. However commonly used legal drugs such as tobacco and alcohol contribute toward the most harm among people. 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.
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.
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. Below are some tips that may assist workers when talking to young people about AOD.
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.
 Australian Drug Foundation (1996) Young Drug Users Slip Through the Gaps. Melbourne.
 Australian Drug Foundation (2001).
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