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Youth Development Study



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Factors associated with teenage ecstasy use.  McCrystal, P and Percy, A.  (In press).  Drugs: Education Prevention and Policy.

This paper aimed to investigate the factors associated with ecstasy use in school aged  teenagers. This was a longitudinal study of adolescent drug use which was undertaken in three towns in Northern Ireland.  A questionnaire was administered annually to participants and ecstasy use patterns amongst a cohort of young people aged 14-16 years participating in the Belfast Youth Development Study was explored.  The percentage of those who had used ecstasy at least once increased from 7% when aged 14 years to 9% at 15 and 13% at 16 years.  Female gender, delinquency, problems behaviours at school and the number of evenings out each week were found to be significant variables predicting ‘ever use’ of ecstasy in all three years.  The findings suggest that ecstasy use patterns may be changing from the historical perception of a ‘party’ drug, as the demographic profile ecstasy of users in this study reflected the traditional profile of illicit drug use during adolescence which raises challenges for addressing the problems associated with this drug.

The Extent and Nature of Family Alcohol and Drug Use: Findings from the Belfast Youth development Study, Percy, A, Thornton, M and McCrystal, P Child Abuse Review, (In press).

Using data from an ongoing longitudinal study of adolescent drug use, this study examines the proportion of teenagers living with parents who are problem alcohol or drug users. Around two percent of parents report high levels of problem drinking and one per cent report problem drug use. If a broader definition of hazardous drinking is used, the proportion of teenagers exposed increases to over 15 per cent. When substance use is examined at a family level (taking account of alcohol and drug use amongst dependent children in addition to that of parents), the proportion of families experiencing some form of substance use is considerable. These findings add further support to the call for increased recognition of the needs of dependent children within adult treatment services when working with parents. Likewise, the reduction of harm to children as a result of parent substance use should be an increasingly important priority for family support services. This is likely to be achieved through the closer integration of addiction and family services.

A Profile of Adolescent Cocaine Use in Northern Ireland.   McCrystal, P and Percy, A (in press).  International Journal of Drug Policy.

The image of cocaine as a ‘party’ drug used by more affluent members of society has begun to change as the levels of use of the drug rise among school aged young people.  Cocaine use patterns amongst young people aged 13-16 years who were participating in the Belfast Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of adolescent drug use were investigated.  Data was collected through an annual datasweep in participating schools.  This paper includes data collected in year 3,4 and 5 of the study.  The results show higher levels of cocaine use among this age group than reported in much of the existing harm reduction literature.  Lifetime use was 3.8 per cent at age 13/14 years, rising to 7.5 per cent at 15/16 years.  The profile indicated that  adolescent cocaine users were more likely to be female, live in non-nuclear families  and experience social deprivation, which is similar to existing adolescent drug use profiles.  Additionally there was some evidence of experimental cocaine use amongst the sample.  These findings provide further evidence for the development of age appropriate school focused harm reduction initiatives and continued monitoring of contemporary trends of use of cocaine among school aged young people.

Substance Misuse amongst Young People in Non School Settings: Challenges to Practitioners and Policy Makers. Mc Crystal, P. (in press).  Child Abuse Review,

Over the past two decades the levels of substance misuse amongst children and young people has increased at a global level generally and in particular within the UK.  Some school aged young people are considered to be at an increased risk to substance misuse, particularly those outside mainstream school.  However the literature on substance use by these young people remains comparatively limited.  This paper explores this issue through an investigation of cannabis use trends amongst the High Risk Booster Sample of the Belfast Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of adolescent substance use.  It focuses upon the cannabis use patterns of young people excluded from school and those attending EBD units from the age of 11-16 years, groups historically categorised as vulnerable to substance misuse.  The experience of these young people provides evidence to highlight the contemporary challenges facing policy makers and practitioners when addressing substance use and misuse use amongst these vulnerable young people. 

Drug Taking Prevention for Young People with SEBD Attending Special Education Provision .  McCrystal, P (in press).    Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties.

Over the past decade the levels of drug use amongst school aged young people have risen.  Prevention initiatives have been developed using empirical evidence obtained from school based surveys.  However, the empirical evidence base of drug use amongst young people with SEBD attending special education provision is very limited.  The paper explores the implications of this knowledge gap for addressing drug use amongst these young people.  Proposals for the way forward are suggested for developing a framework for targeted evidence based interventions for young people attending EBD Units.