What is controlling or ceasing substance use?
There are a range of strategies that young people can use to enable them to control, reduce or cease their substance using behaviour. The common thread that links this diverse range of strategies is a focus on moderation and control (YSAS 2002) and the intention to reduce substance use related harms and achieve positive health and wellbeing outcomes with young people (Denning, Little & Glickman, 2004).
Each young person’s motivation for pursuing modifications to their substance using behaviour is unique but their goals can generally cluster into the following categories:
- Young people committed to ceasing substance use
- Young people planning to continue using substances at the same level but in a more controlled and less harmful manner (It might be that the young person makes changes in how, when, where and with whom they use)
- Young people planning to reduce their consumption of substances either to reduce harm or as a step towards ceasing
- Young people who are poly-substance users may decide to focus on controlling, reducing or ceasing one or all of the substances they use. For example some young people might give up binge drinking on weekends to avoid getting into fights, but continuing to use cannabis at current levels because they like it.
Evidence from the study of resilience (Masten, 2009) demonstrates that making a positive change in one aspect of a young person’s life often translates into positive changes in other areas of their life.
Why are interventions that enable young people to control, reduce or discontinue their substance using behaviour important?
Effective youth AOD services and practitioners require the capacity to enable young people to achieve a range of substance-use related goals. Being able to engage a young person and provide them with meaningful assistance, regardless of their goal in relation to substance use, demonstrates that a practitioner and/or service is client centred; an evidence informed characteristic of effective youth AOD work.
Some young people commit themselves to stopping substance use, whereas others seek to continue using substances in a more controlled manner or at reduced levels. Positive health and wellbeing outcomes which are in keeping with overarching intentions and values of effective youth AOD work can result from ceasing, reducing and controlling substance use. Setting achievable goals and succeeding in these goals, can provide the impetus for further, more ambitious changes.