Adolescents who use drugs or alcohol problematically are likely to be vulnerable and experiencing a range of problems, of which substance misuse is one. The majority of young people who seek help for substance misuse have emotional or social problems, such as self-harming, offending and family issues. They are also less likely to be in education, employment or training. Studies have shown that young people from more than one vulnerable group are more at risk of drug or alcohol misuse (DfES: 2005; The NHS Information Centre, 2011).
The groups at risk are:
- Young offenders
- Looked after children
- Care leavers
- Children affected by parental substance misuse
- Children affected by domestic violence
- Homeless young people
- Young people at risk from sexual exploitation
- Young people in gangs or at risk of gang recruitment
- Excludees and persistent truants
Prolonged or escalating use may increase risk around physical and mental health. Parental substance misuse should also be taken into account whereby substance misuse and intoxication becomes normalised and/or a young person may find themselves in the position of caring for their non-functioning parent. In some scenarios, young people may experience feelings of guilt and responsibility.