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National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol

The NACDA was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use.

The goal of the NACDA is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on our analysis and interpretation of research findings.

Parents & Peers Influence Drug Use Among Early School Leavers

News Release, issued by the National Advisory Committee on Drugs
Thursday October 28, 2010

Substance use among early school leavers is significantly higher than among young people attending schools, according to new research from the National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) that was launched today by the Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr. Pat Carey, TD.

The research Risk and Protection Factors for Substance Use Among Young People is one of the first studies of this kind undertaken on substance use among young people (15-18 year olds) who had left school early in Ireland.

The study primarily looks at the factors associated with substance use among those who left school early, as well as aiming to identify the risk and protective factors that influence young people’s decisions regarding substance use by comparison with a matched group of school going young people from the same catchment areas.

991 young people were interviewed and the early school leavers cohort were attending either a Youthreach or Community Training Centre. Fieldwork for the study was conducted by Ipsos MORI and the results were analysed by Mr Trutz Haase and Dr Jonathan Pratschke on behalf of the NACD. The findings of the study suggest that substance use among 15-18 year olds may be underestimated as such estimates are normally based on studies of those attending school.

The research found that:

  • Smoking: 82% of early school-leavers have smoked during their lifetime compared to 53% of school attendees.
  • Alcohol: 90% of early school leavers have drunk alcohol at least once compared to 88% among school goers.
  • Cannabis: 57% of early school leavers have used cannabis and 24% of school attendees.
  • Other drugs: 41% of early school leavers have taken other drugs (such as psychedelics, cocaine, heroin) compared to 11% of school goers.

School, Parents and Peers are key influencers

The study found that:

  • A positive school experience (including good relationships with teachers) can protect against the risk of drinking alcohol, using cannabis or other drugs.
  • Parental involvement and concern constitute protective factors against substance use – and that the provision of information to parents within educational settings helps to reduce the risk of drug use among early school leavers.
  • If friends use substances, the young person is at a considerably greater risk of using the same substances.li>
  • Drug use by other family members is a significant risk factor for young people.

Further findings include:

  • Low self-esteem contributes significantly to young people’s likelihood of smoking tobacco.
  • Early substance use (alcohol and cigarettes, in particular) is a precursor to more serious forms of use.
  • Living in a Local Drugs Task Force area has a measurable statistically significant positive effect on drug use amongst early school leavers.

Launching the study Minister for Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, Pat Carey said: “Supporting, encouraging and building the confidence of our young people must be central to our approach as a society. We must continue to work to help our youth to realise their full potential and to provide them with the necessary knowledge and skills to make informed choices about their health and future”.

He noted the five “spheres of influence” for young people identified in the study; the young person her/himself, parents, teachers, friends and community and commented that this information can be utilised to inform policy in the area.

NACD recommendations

NACD Chairperson Des Corrigan said based on the findings the NACD was presenting the following recommendations to the Minister:

"Programmes of proven effectiveness which support families need to be strengthened and developed so that families have the capacity to intervene at an early stage to prevent or delay early substance use."
"It is important to build on existing education initiatives, including the work of the National Educational Welfare Board, which aim to prevent early-school leaving so that their impact on countering substance use among young people is maintained.

"Substance use education (including alcohol and drug education) for students should be delivered in the context of a coherent programme in Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE) in all second level schools schools.
"SPHE should also be delivered in Youthreach, Community Training Centres and all other education and training centres which access early school leavers.

Further Information

Ronan Cavanagh, Montague Communications: (01) 830 3116 or (086) 317 9731.
Jemma Hogan, Montague Communications: (01) 830 3116 or (085) 722 9024

The NACD

The National Advisory Committee on Drugs (NACD) was established in response to the drug problem to assist in our continued need to improve our knowledge and understanding of problem drug use. The goal of the NACD is to advise the Government on problem drug use in Ireland in relation to prevalence, prevention consequences and treatment based on analysis and interpretation of research findings.

Recruitment of early school leavers

Those who are attending a Youthreach or FÁS Community Training Centre represent one part of the overall population of early school leavers. It would perhaps have been preferable to extend this sample to include school-leavers who are no longer participating in any form of education; however the difficulties involved in identifying and interviewing members of this sub-group precluded this possibility.

Youthreach

Youthreach is an integral part of the national programme of second-chance education and training in Ireland and is a central part of the Government's contribution to the achievement of a lifelong learning society.
The programme is directed at unemployed young early school leavers aged 15-20. It offers participants the opportunity to identify and pursue viable options within adult life, and provides them with opportunities to acquire certification. It operates on a full-time, year-round basis.

National Educational Welfare Board

In May 2009 plans were announced to extend the remit of the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) with effect from September 2009. The extended remit brings together the Visiting Teacher Service for Travellers (VTST), the Home School Community Liaison Service (HSCL) and the School Completion Programme (SCP) as well as the National Educational Welfare Service (EWS) under one common management team. The current funding for the individual services is some €31m for HSCL; €31m for SCP; €9.575m for NEWB and €2.5m for the VTST.

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