Nottingham Insight

Children and young people substance misuse (2016)

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Topic title Children and young people substance misuse
Topic owner Christine Oliver and Jane Bethea
Topic author(s) Caroline Keenan and Gemma Summerson
Topic quality reviewed April 2016
Topic endorsed by Jane Bethea, Christine Oliver and Tim Spink
Current version April 2016
Replaces version 2012
Linked JSNA topics

Executive summary



This JSNA chapter summarises need in relation to substance misuse in children and young people, describes factors associated with variations in use of drugs and alcohol and also describes local context in terms of service provision and use. Please consider this chapter in conjunction with Adult Problem Drug use and Adult Alcohol Use for cross cutting issues. In this chapter children and young people are defined as those aged under 25, and provides where possible data for younger school aged children.

Substance misuse can impact on both physical and emotional health. It can be associated with poor outcomes in relation to sexual health (including risk of teenage pregnancy), mental health, education, employment and training. Misuse is also associated with involvement in anti-social and criminal activity and can have a negative impact on family life. National findings suggest that most young people will experiment with substances as part of natural curiosity, but for some this experimentation will become problematic (Fuller, et al., 2013). Evidence suggests that drug use among young people in England has reduced over the last decade by approximately one third (Her Majesty's Government, 2010). However, the harms to young people associated with drug and alcohol misuse continue to raise concerns both nationally and locally.

Unmet needs and service gaps

  • There is currently limited variation in the referral routes into specialist young people’s substance misuse treatment.  The majority of referrals come from education and the youth justice system.
  • The available data makes it difficult to assess transition from young people’s substance misuse treatment into adult substance misuse treatment; however, local services report that numbers transitioning are low.
  • There is an under representation of young women in local specialist young people’s substance misuse treatment, reasons for this are unclear and warrant further attention.
  • New psychoactive substances have been raised by local service providers and by other agencies to be an issue. There is a lack of national and local data on extent of use, characteristics of users and harms associated with use and this requires further attention.

There is a lack of detailed information about the number and needs of children and young people in the City who have substance misuse needs but are not accessing treatment interventions.

Recommendations for consideration by commissioners

  • Training should be provided to the wider children and young people’s workforce on early identification, brief interventions and making appropriate referrals to substance misuse services.
  • Efforts should be made to understand and improve barriers to access and engage with treatment services for females.
  • Commissioners should monitor transition from young people and adult services, strengthening referral pathways to increase the number of young people with substance misuse needs who transition to adult services.
  • Commissioners should remain abreast of information and data in relation to new psychoactive substances and monitor local emerging trends.  Information should be disseminated to colleagues working with young people to ensure that harm reduction messages are relayed through both drug awareness education and through targeted and specialist treatment interventions.
  • Commissioners should ensure continuous development within the young people’s substance misuse treatment system. A regular consultation process with young people should also be implemented.


Key contacts

Gemma Summerson, Strategy and Commissioning Officer, Nottingham City Council,

Caroline Keenan, Senior Performance and Insight Officer, Nottingham City Council,

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