Some young people are more at risk of developing a problem with substances than others. Knowing who these young people are, helps teachers intervene earlier to prevent problems developing.

Along with an understanding of the factors that either protect against or contribute to the development of drug or alcohol problems, recent research with young people accessing alcohol and other drug services in Victoria has confirmed that young people who do develop substance use issues have often had their early childhood years characterised by considerable trauma and disadvantage (see: Daley & Chamberlain 2009; Kutin et al 2014).

To compliment a framework that encourages teachers and well-being coordinators to notice and investigate potential issues, this suggests that young people with specific experiences may be more vulnerable to developing an issue with substances and may benefit from extra monitoring and pre-emptive support even if issues are not obvious. Young people with drug and alcohol related issue are more likely to:

  • Have been involved in the state care and protection system
  • Have attended multiple schools
  • Be disconnected of have significant problems with family
  • Have experienced abuse and/or neglect
  • Have a parent or primary carer with a substance use issue
  • Have a history of self-injury
Young people with specific experiences may be more vulnerable to developing an issue with substances

It is not suggested that these factors directly cause later substance abuse among young people, but if you are aware of students with these experiences you are well placed to specifically monitor their well-being and provide indicated prevention support to lower the chances of problems developing later.