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Youth Development Study

Abstracts pt. 2

Abstracts Page 2 (6-10)

Cannabis Reclassification: What is the Message to the Next Generation of Cannabis Users?   McCrystal, P (in press).  Child Care in Practice.

At the beginning of 2004 the UK Government downgraded the legal status of cannabis from a Class B to a Class C drug.  Following a review of this decision two years later, cannabis remained a Class C substance which for some contrasted with the potential harmful social and health effects associated with its use particularly for young people.  This includes its links with respiratory damage, problems during pregnancy and its potential to exacerbate mental health problems.  When Gordon Brown became Prime Minister in June 2007 his government decided to revisit this issue and requested a re-examination of its legal status.   Despite the advice of its own scientific advisory body, the ACMD, the UK government reclassified cannabis back to a category B drug in May 2008. This paper examines the existing scientific evidence on the potential impact of cannabis use on young people within the context of the UK Government’s reclassification initiative over the past four years.  This evidence remains inconclusive whilst the perception of young people to the effects of cannabis use during and now after the period of the reclassification debate is not yet known.  This now makes it particularly challenging to communicate a clear message in the most effective manner with young people about the possible risks of cannabis use and would appear to make it difficult to provide a clear and unambiguous statement on what message this initiative has sent to the next generation of cannabis users as they see the government rethink its position on several occasions before eventually changing its mind. 

 Substance Use Among Young People Living in Residential State Care.  Child Care in Practice. .  McCrystal, P., Percy, A. & Higgins, K., (2008), 14, 2, 181-192.

Existing empirical evidence on substance use amongst young people living in residential state care during adolescence is comparatively limited. This paper reports on substance use trends of young people living in residential state care from the age of 13-16 years.  A repeated cross-sectional research design was used in the research.  The findings suggest some similarities for lifetime prevalence rates for tobacco and alcohol use for those living in residential state care with a group of same age young people not living in residential state care who participated in the research.  However, use of cannabis and abuse of solvents was higher amongst those living in care.  More frequent substance use was reported by the residential care sample for all substances at each stage of the study.  These findings suggest that young people living in state care continue to merit higher levels of vigilance from researchers and policy makers in order to fully understand this behaviour and develop appropriate prevention initiatives to meet their needs regarding potential drug problems.

 Frequent Cannabis Use Among 14/15 Year Olds in Northern Ireland.  Drug and Alcohol Dependence 88, 19-27.  McCrystal, P., Percy, A., & Higgins, K. (2007).

 Relatively high levels of cannabis use among young people is a cause of concern because of the positive relationship between its early onset use, antisocial behaviours and associated lifestyle.  Amongst a survey of 3919 young people at school year 11 in Northern Ireland (aged 14/15 years) 142 reported daily cannabis use.  These young people also reported particularly high levels of licit and illicit drug use and accounted for a high proportion of use of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin for the full school cohort.  Daily cannabis users also reported high levels of antisocial behaviour and disaffection with school.  The findings perhaps raise questions about the existence of a potentially ‘hidden’ high risk school based group of young people during adolescence who require specific targeted prevention strategies.

Exclusion and Marginalisation: The Experience of School Exclusion on Drug Use and Antisocial Behaviour.  Journal of Youth Studies 10, (1), 35-54, McCrystal, P., Percy, A., & Higgins, K (2007).

Young people excluded from school are a group at an increased risk to drug use and antisocial behaviour during adolescence and later marginalisation and exclusion from society in adulthood.  As part of the Belfast Youth Development Study, a longitudinal study of the onset and development of adolescent drug use, young people who entered post primary school in 2000 (aged 11/12 years) were surveyed annually on four occasions.  This paper reports on findings from this survey in relation to a supplementary group of young people who were surveyed because they had been excluded from school.  The findings show higher levels of drug use and antisocial behaviour among school excludees, lower levels of communication with their parents/guardians, higher levels of contact with the criminal justice system and increased likelihood of living in communities characterised with neighbourhood disorganisation.  This lifestyle perhaps suggests these young people are leading a life that is already taking them towards the margins of society.

The Cost of Drug Use in Adolescence: Young People, Money and Substance Abuse.  Drugs: Education Policy and Prevention McCrystal, P., Percy, A., & Higgins, K. (2007) 14,1 19-28.

It is now common for young people in full-time compulsory education to hold part-time jobs.  However, whilst the 1990s experienced a rise in illicit drug use particularly among young people and a corresponding increase in interest for identifying factors associated with drug use, little attention has been paid to the influence of part-time work, the money young people have to spend and its potential links with drug use.  Four thousand five hundred and twenty-four young people completed a questionnaire in school year 10 (aged 13/14 years).  The findings suggested there was a positive association between the amount of money (and its source) young people received and higher rates of drug use.  The study concludes that money, and how it is spent by young people, may be an important factor for consideration when investigating drug use during adolescence.  The findings may help inform drug prevention strategies particularly through advice on money management, and taking responsibility for their own money.