The Scottish Government have a useful summary of their policy for supporting young people’s health and wellbeing, of which I’ll summarise what they say about drug and alcohol misuse.
The government’s general position in respect of risky behaviours is to try to identify the common risk and protective factors and to encourage work that reduces the risk and enhances the protective factors in children and young people’s lives.
At present, policy generally reflects a dual strategy of enhancing protective factors for health (e.g. health promoting behaviours, psychosocial factors such as personal resilience, self-esteem, motivation, self-control), while seeking to reduce risk factors to health such as alcohol or drug misuse.
In terms of reducing risk factors, it is increasingly argued that policy makers should move away from siloed, single issue approaches to integrated, multiple risk behaviour approaches which recognise that risk behaviours tend to co-occur. At the same time there should be continued focus on strengthening the protective factors that are understood to mitigate against young people’s involvement in health risk behaviours.
There is also a recognition that early intervention could be critical, particularly where children are growing up in households where substance misuse is an issue. We know that it is estimated that:
60,000 children under 16 years old [in Scotland] have a parent with a drug problem (Hidden Harm, 2003) and up to 65,000 children under the age of 16 have a parent with an alcohol problem (Scottish Government, 2009).
It is worth noting that according to the latest drug deaths report from the NHS nearly 40% of those who died in Scotland as a result of their drug use in 2010 were parents with 8.5% still having kids living with them at the time of their death.
School children in Scotland can expect to learn about drugs as part of the health and wellbeing curriculum. This will include alcohol, medicines, drugs, tobacco and solvents and will focus on the impact of risk taking behaviour on health and life choices.
Beyond this the government have refreshed their advice to parents about alcohol in the last two years – download here.
They’ve looked at the licencing regulations and introduced a mandatory verification policy. Of course there is also Minimum Unit Pricing which they expect to reduce access to cheap alcohol for young people (and others).
They are also looking at how Brief Interventions aimed at those who are drinking at harmful or hazardous levels may support young drinkers to cut down.