Substance misuse, including alcohol, is an issue experienced by a number of young people and can put them at higher risk of mental and physical health difficulties. How do care providers support children and young people who may be using drugs or alcohol – and subsequently putting themselves at risk? We spoke to Keys Group Substance Misuse Specialist Advisor Fran Gracie and asked her to share an example.
“Dannii came to my attention in 2019 when she began using cannabis on a daily basis. I was in regular contact with the residential children’s home she was living in, advising and supporting the staff and the Manager to address her cannabis use.
“Dannii became involved with some local young people, some of whom were looked after children in care and living with other providers in the local area. Associating with her new friends seemed to exacerbate her cannabis use and she also started to use alcohol more frequently.
“When Dannii drank alcohol she often put herself at significant risk. She was found intoxicated and in some vulnerable states, on one occasion she was found collapsed by a passer-by who sought emergency help for her. Alcohol use also was a huge trigger for her self- harm as she struggled to regulate her difficult emotions when under the influence.
“A member of Dannii’s family lived close to the home, and they were a dependant alcohol user. They also suffered with mental health difficulties and were a victim of domestic abuse. This we refer to as the “toxic trio”.
“Research shows this combination has clear links with abuse, and the neglect of children and young people, and is likely to have significant negative impacts upon their development. Dannii often gravitated to her relative’s property on unauthorised visits. Due to the adult’s inconsistencies, the visits would be quite traumatic and this often led to Dannii seeking out substances such as alcohol to suppress difficult emotions. Possible hypotheses may also suggest Dannii was subconsciously punishing her loved one for what she encountered whilst growing up.
“Dannii declined on numerous offers to work with the local commissioned substance services for young people. Due to her safeguarding risks, it was imperative that robust risk assessments were in place, and child protection strategy and risk management meetings were held to ensure her safety.
“The home also worked closely with policing teams who regularly provided intelligence on all of her associations. In addition to the meetings, substance related sessions were carried out by staff and myself. I initially trained all the staff and offered consultations with staff to skill them up to carry out the work that was required. I also met with Dannii on a number of visits to address her substance use. She stated that using substances helped her forget the difficult times and that she struggled to reduce or stop what she was using. I completed auricular acupuncture treatment as an intervention to help her with drug cravings and to regulate her emotions. I delivered sessions using a variety of evidenced-based approaches such as motivational interviewing, solution focused and cognitive behavioural therapy.
“With a consistent team work approach with wrap-around support from the Manager, staff, and myself, we started to see a reduction with Dannii’s alcohol use. She recognised the negative impacts of when she drank alcohol and how this left her feeling. She also started to acknowledge her difficult past and was learning how to regulate her emotions.
“Dannii left our care to live in supported accommodation. She had significantly reduced her cannabis use and we were delighted that she was completely abstinent from alcohol which we saw as a successful outcome due to the harm it caused her.”