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Falling drug and alcohol use by teenagers in Highland (20/09/07)
The Highland Council and NHS Highland Board members learned this week that there have been significant reductions across Highland in drug and substance misuse by young people. In particular, there have been significant falls in the number of 13 and 15-year-olds using alcohol or drugs.
Levels of alcohol and drug misuse by young people are of serious concern to the partner agencies in the Highland Drug and Alcohol Action Team, which has resulted in a concerted approach by agencies over a number of years, to address the number of young people who are misusing alcohol or drugs with all the inherent problems for young people, their families and local communities.
Highland’s Joint Committee on Children and Young People received a report on Thursday from the Drug and Alcohol Action Team. This identified that a recent survey found that 61% of 13-year-olds and 88% of 15-year-olds reported that they had taken an alcoholic drink at some time in their lives. Indeed, 17% of 13-year-olds 38% of 15-year-olds reported that they had drunk alcohol in the week prior to the survey.
These figures involve a significant reduction in previously reported levels. In 2002, 24% of 13-year-olds and 49% of 15-year-olds had reported drinking alcohol in the previous week.
There have been similar reductions in the number of young people reporting involvement with drugs. Whereas in 2002, 70% of 15-year-olds said they had been offered drugs at some time in their lives, this figure has fallen to 45%. The number of 15-year-olds who reported using drugs every week had fallen by half, from 6% to 3% of the population.
The Joint Committee heard that the reported levels of drug and alcohol misuse by young people in other parts of Scotland remained higher than in Highland, and there was not the same evidence elsewhere in the country of progress in achieving reductions.
However for a significant number of Highland’s young people, drugs and alcohol continue to present serious problems. Local Youth Action Teams are working with around 170 young people who have significant difficulties over their alcohol misuse, and another 100 who are involved with drugs.
The Joint Committee was told that a number of initiatives are being implemented through the Drug and Alcohol Action Plan to build on the progress so far achieved, both in schools and in the community. The aim is to promote healthier lifestyles for young people, and provide them with the appropriate information to allow them to make more informed decisions on drug and alcohol use. These actions are in addition to the more targeted services that are working with young people who require more specialised support .
Dr David Alston, Chair of the Highland Drug and Alcohol Team, said: “There remain major issues for Highland communities about the level of drug and alcohol use by young people. But this is a good news story. We have invested a lot in services to address drug and alcohol misuse, and our staff have worked extremely hard at making a change – which we appear to be achieving. We need to keep at it, and learn from research about what works best with young people.”
Pam Courcha, Chair of Highland’s Joint Committee on Children and Young People, said “This is welcome news, but there can be no room for complacency as it is recognised that the levels of alcohol and drug misuse by our young people remains too high. The progress being made is a tribute to our staff, but we must continue to work alongside parents and young people to bring these levels down.”
Note for Editors
The Highland Drug & Alcohol Action Team (HDAAT) is a multi-agency partnership, which includes Health, Social Work, Police, Education, Scottish Prison Service and Procurator Fiscal. It is chaired by Dr David Alston, Highland Councillor, who joined HDAAT in October 06
These figures come from the 2006 Scottish Schools Adolescent Lifestyle and Substance Use Survey (SALSUS), reported this year.
29 schools in Highland were asked to take part in the SALSUS survey. 76% agreed and returned the questionnaires. 1366 pupils in Highland took part, which is a pupil response of 91%. Nationally, 69% of all schools took part and out of these schools, 82% of pupils returned questionnaires.