Many of the social determinants of problematic AOD use are also determinants of chronic illness, preventable disease and disability.
For young people who have missed out on preventative (or Primary) health and are already experiencing more significant health concerns than other young people their age, finding and engaging with a Registered Nurse or a youth friendly GP should be a priority.
The aim in finding a health professional is not so that a young person has a free clinic to go to when their script runs out or they get sick but someone they can work with to address current health issues and prevent future illness. Developing a relationship with a GP in particular makes it easier to access free health schemes such as physiotherapy, dental, mental health care plans and immunisations, as well as review and change medications.
Finally, a GP or nurse that knows a young person over time is well placed to spot a deterioration in physical or mental health and take timely action.
GPs and nurses who work at specialist youth health services are a good starting point, alternately ask colleagues for recommendations of GPs and Nurses they know who engage well with young clients. YoDAA keeps lists of youth friendly health care providers recommended by young people and AOD workers whilst GP Victorian keeps lists of G.P’s who nominate themselves as ‘youth friendly.’
If a health professional engages well with young people but does not specialise in AOD issues, Drug And Alcohol Clinical Advisory Service provides secondary consultation with top Addiction Medicine Specialists.
It is well worth introducing yourself and developing a relationship with a local GP or nurse
Many young people in AOD treatment have experienced adversarial relationships with medical staff and may approach the therapeutic relationship with suspicion and distrust. Doctors who have been on the receiving end of ‘Doctor Shopping’ may likewise be hesitant about working with AOD clients.
Reframing a young person-GP relationship ‘a health expert in your corner’ ‘someone who can help chip away at health issues’ ‘someone who can work with us to get your health on track’ ‘someone who you can actually talk to freely about your medication and make changes in a planned way’ ‘using drugs can mess with your body and brain, it’s good to have someone who knows you well and you can check in with now and then.’
Doctors and nurses are not youth workers but that doesn’t mean they cannot develop positive and transformative therapeutic relationships with young people and be powerful advocates for a young persons health. A Youth AOD practitioner is in a unique position model engagement and help a doctor and young person to build report. Attending appointments (with the young persons permission) can assist with this.