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Summary

Background papers: Lifestyle and wider determinants :: Substance misuse in children and young people [Update in progress] :: Summary

Problematic risk behaviours such as smoking and drug misuse during youth are strongly associated with social deprivation. However evidence of socio-economic variations in alcohol and drug misuse varies according to the definition of substance use that is adopted. Many UK surveys suggest a positive relationship between alcohol consumption and social status, young men and women from higher income groups drinking more frequently and in larger amounts. Similarly the use of cannabis and amphetamines does not appear to be strongly associated with social deprivation although young people who leave school at 16 appear more likely to have tried drugs than those who stay on to achieve higher qualifications. Against this highly problematic drug and alcohol use appear to be strongly associated with social disadvantage.

The close correlation between substance misuse and unplanned teenage pregnancy has been highlighted in many studies, as risk taking behaviour in one may easily lead to experimentation in the other. Use of substances may lead young people to intimate sexual contacts, having unprotected sex, having sex with someone they don't know or becoming a victim of a sexual act.

Key issues and gaps

An increase in the number of young people presenting at specialist services who are injecting drug users. Poor pathways of care between the secure estate and the Youth Offending Team (YOT) regarding substance misuse services, both inside and outside of Medway. Looked after children (LAC) are not being referred from Children's services but are being identified through schools or the Youth Offending Team (YOT) following a crisis. A more proactive approach is required. No specifically funded work for children affected by someone else's substance use

Recommendations for Commissioning

To continue to establish levels of need in relation to young people's own substance use
• During 2011/12, re-tender young people's substance misuse services within secure estates in line with new strategic direction and identified revised funding
• Commission systemic work for children affected by parental/family substance use
• Ensure that mechanisms continue to be in place to support workforce development within universal and targeted services.
• Develop and ratify a needle exchange policy for under 18's
• Commission educational and skills training for foster carers