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Who's at risk and why?

Background papers: Lifestyle and wider determinants :: Substance misuse in adults [Update in progress] :: Who's at risk and why?

National Research conducted by the Home Office [1] has identified a group of risk factors for which may lead to drug use. These factors include parental discipline, family cohesion, parental monitoring, peer drug use, drug availability, genetic profile, self-esteem and hedonistic attitudes. There is less consistent evidence linking drug use to mental health, parental substance use, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, religious involvement, sport, health educator-led interventions, school performance, early onset of drug use and socio-economic status. This review also recognised that there are certain groups of young people that are a greater risk of drug use, i.e. 17–24 year olds that:

• have anti-social behaviour;
• begin early smoking;
• are in trouble at school (including truanting and exclusion);
• are impulsive;
• are un-sensitive
• who belong to few or no groups.

Further to this there is evidence from the Home Office British Crime Survey to suggest that Class A illicit drug use is increasing among 16 to 24 year-olds, with more than half a million young people taking cocaine and ecstasy in the last year. However, the latest findings from the British Crime Survey [2] confirm that the long term gradual decline in cannabis use among young people has continued. They also show that the profile of the most likely frequent illicit drug user is white, young, male, single, a regular clubber and likely to be seen in the pub (however, it must be recognised that this survey is completed by residents in households and a large proportion of problematic drug users will be homeless or not permanently housed). National research also estimates that 55% of prisoners are drug users. Prison is also where many problematic drug users (PDUs) will first use or be exposed to heroin. The health and wellbeing needs of offenders are considered elsewhere.

Clients currently attending services are predominantly white British.

The vast majority of clients accessing the KCA drug service are primary heroin users. There is a need to ensure that the non-heroin using population is also having their needs met by the service.
More work needs to be carried out with adult substance misusers with children or who have access to children to address Hidden Harm issues.


[1]   Dillon L, Chivite-Matthews N, Grewal I, et al. Risk, protective factors and resilience to drug use: identifying resilient young people and learning from their experiences 2007; Home Office. .
[2]   Hoare J. Drug Misuse Declared: Findings from the 2008/09 British Crime Survey 2009; Home office. .