Posted on 18th Jun 2019
Help Youth Solutions to support young people like Jack.
Jack* was 12 years old when he went to a sleepover at his friend’s place. At this sleepover, he drank alcohol, because his friends did. He wanted to fit in.
When Jack was 14 he tried ice (crystal methamphetamine) for the first time. Experimentation was natural he said. It’s all good. All of his friends had tried it before; they were fine.
Jack never really felt like himself around his friends. They didn’t really know the true him so Jack started taking many other substances. He said he felt like he could really be himself when he was using drugs.
Jack’s mum had planned an 18th birthday for him. She was so grateful that he had made it to 18, with what he had been through.
He didn’t arrive at the party. He went to another party. At that party, Jack got into a bad fight.
He started losing friends. He didn’t realise the judgement that would come from taking drugs. His friends were the ones who encouraged him in the first place; until it went too far.
Jack spent the next few years homeless. He didn’t go to school. He didn’t want to. It was painful to hear his friends call him names he never thought they would.
Jack was 21. He was alone. He didn’t know how things got so bad.
Jack tried to take his own life.
Jack’s mum said the family was deeply affected by what Jack had gone through.
His little sister now suffers from depression and anxiety. She doesn’t have any interest in taking drugs herself because she has seen drugs tear her family apart.
Jack now lives with the burden of being addicted to drugs. He says it’s a constant struggle and it affects his daily life.
*Jack’s story is based on actual events and stories gathered as part of a research project Youth Solutions conducted in 2019. Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals.
Jack is like many other young people in our community. He is the story that Youth Solutions encounters far too often; the pressures he faced, the things he was exposed to, the lack of knowledge about what could happen when you take drugs, the lack of support at the start to shift things back on track before they got out of control.
He is one of the many young people aged 15 – 25 years, for whom alcohol and illegal drugs remains the leading cause of disease burden (2).
Globally, alcohol is the leading risk factor claiming the lives of our young people (1). Nationally, alcohol and illegal drug use remain the leading cause of death and disease for young people (2). And locally, Youth Solutions is engaging with more and more young people at risk of, or indeed already experiencing, a plethora of issues and harm, because of drugs and alcohol.
At Youth Solutions, we know that it takes a community to keep our young people healthy, safe and connected. It takes a community to change the future for people like Jack. It takes a community to offer people like Jack another option; another path.
Research tells us that preventing and delaying drug and alcohol use among young people is a priority and that ‘delaying initiation’ has long-term protective effects against the over-use of substances and the associated negative health outcomes (3-7).
Youth Solutions’ own current research project with local young people is also telling us that educating and supporting our young people early on is vital for preventing harm.
As one 23-year-old put it: “Sometimes you don’t know what you are doing and you end up doing this very harmful thing to yourself. I had no better idea. You want to know how you can stay safe and not harm yourself.”
Prevention, before initiation, is key. We need to reach young people like Jack before patterns of drug and alcohol use are established. We need to intervene early before things get out of hand.
- GBD 2016 Alcohol Collaborators 2018, ‘Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990 – 2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016’, The Lancet, vol. 392, no. 10152, pp. 1015 – 1035.
- Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhove de Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J & Zubrick SR 2015, The mental health of children and adolescents: Report on the Secondary Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing, Department of Health, Canberra.
- Aiken, A, Clare, PJ, Wadolowski, M, Hutchsinson, D, Najman, JM, Slade, T, Bruno, R, McBride, N, Kypri, K & Mattick, RP 2017, ‘Age of alcohol initiation and progression to binge drinking in adolescence: A prospective cohort study’, Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, vol. 42, no. 1, accesed on 30/05/2019 via http://doi.org/10.1111/acer.13525
- Chen, CY, Sorr, CL & Anthony 2009, ‘Early-onset drug use and risk for drug dependence problems’, Addictive Behaviours, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 319-322.
- Bellis, MA, Morleo, M, Hughes, K, Downing, J, Wood, S, Smallwaite & Cook, PA 2010, ‘A cross-sectional survey of compliance with national guidance for alcohol consumption by children: measuring risk factors, protective factors and social norms for excessive and unsupervised drinking’, BMC Public Health, vol. 10, no. 547, pp. 1-8.
- Gallo, KD 2015, The relationship between age of onset of drug use, drug dependence, mental disorders, and offense type and severity, California State University, San Bernardino.
- McKay, MT, Dempster, M & Cole, J 2015, ‘Abstinence from alcohol may indeed be the best policy: 32 month longitudinal outcomes among adolescents in the United Kingdom’, International Journal of Child and Adolescent Health, 8, no. 2, pp. 221-30.
- South Western Sydney Local Health District 2014, Health Profile of Local Communities, accessed on 30/05/2019 via https://www.swslhd.health.nsw.gov.au/planning/content/pdf/SWSLHD%20Community%20Profile%20Summary%20070814.pdf