Addiction, Health, Behaviour Change | CGL

Guidance for professionals supporting a young person

Adolescence is a crucial time for physical, emotional and social development. It’s also a time of intense learning, both in terms of formal education and informally from family and peers. Drugs and alcohol often play a significant role in the lives of young people, whether that be curiosity, experimentation, recreational or problematic use and very infrequently, dependent use. There are many reasons why young people may choose to use drugs or alcohol, despite their potential to affect physical, emotional, social or academic development.

A young person’s experience with drugs and alcohol can be influenced by internal and external factors outlined below. They may do it for fun, because they are curious, or to be like their friends. Some are experimenting with the feeling of intoxication. Sometimes they use it to cope with difficult situations or feelings of worry and low mood.

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The bigger picture

The most recent data tells us that cannabis and alcohol are the most common substances that young people are seeking help with. However, the landscape of young people’s substance use is forever changing. The prominence of certain substances differs from region to region. Contact your local service to find out more on which substances are more prominent in your area.

Young people’s attitudes and behaviours are influenced by the world they live in and the adults around them, so exposure to substance using behaviour by adult role models will increase the likelihood of the young person experimenting with alcohol or drugs.

There are, of course, young people that are more vulnerable to risk than others. Risk factors include abuse and neglect (including emotional abuse), truanting from school, offending, early sexual activity, antisocial behaviour and being exposed to parental substance misuse (also known as hidden harm). By using substances young people can become more vulnerable to Child Sexual or Criminal Exploitation. Those that use more than one substance (poly-drug use) become more vulnerable also due to the mixture of substances.

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What to do next - does the young person need extra support?

Focusing on factors such as raising educational achievement, training and employment, promoting positive health and wellbeing, positive relationships and meaningful activities are all valuable objectives to pursue. Approaches that the evidence base suggests are least effective include:

  • scare tactics and images
  • knowledge-only approaches
  • ex-users and the police as drug educators where their input is not part of a wider prevention programme
  • peer mentoring schemes that are not evidence-based

Young people at increased risk of harm are supported by many different services with the aim of strengthening their resilience.  Our services work as part of a multi-agency approach to holistically support young people.

The first step is to take is to hold a conversation with a young person to address your current concerns. For advice on how to approach a conversation with a young person click here.

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The first step is to take is to hold a conversation with a young person to address your current concerns.
What can Change Grow Live offer?

Change Grow Live offers a range of services nationally for young people and young adults up to the age of 25. Our services provide support around substance misuse treatment, prevention and early intervention, emotional wellbeing, child sexual exploitation, offending, advocacy and parental drug or alcohol use.

We know that if we can support young people now, it may empower them to make healthier choices in their life. That’s why our youth services focus on providing friendly, non-judgemental advice and support.

Change Grow Live also offers support to professionals to upskill them on the topics listed above. CGL can provide:

  • Consultancy service for professionals
  • Bespoke training packages tailored for the needs of the local community
  • Targeted groupwork for young people identified to be at risk/vulnerable
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Making a referral

Making a referral to one of our services is straightforward. You can refer a young person by:

  • Post
  • Email
  • In person
  • Online
  • SMS
  • Social Media

Visit your local service page for more information on how to refer a young person.

When considering referring a young person, it’s important that you have their consent as we cannot accept referrals without this. We are more than happy to support this decision by providing young people with more information on what to expect and their various options, but ultimately the decision is theirs to make.

The Change Grow Live approach

Once a referral has been made the young person will receive contact from their local service within 24 hours. They will then be offered an initial appointment to discuss their needs within five working days. Our aim is to have a comprehensive assessment completed within ten days of a referral being received.

Useful websites for professionals

  • - Alcohol and drug education and prevention information service.  Evidence based resources and information for teachers and practitioners.
  • - Dr Suzi Gage – psychologist who is interested in understanding associations between mental health and substance use.  A series of video conversations and discussions on specific substances. No spin, no judgement, just facts.  Useful for training/ group work sessions.  
  • - Resources and publications for professionals working with families where there is drug and alcohol misuse 
  • - Website which seeks to balance a large amount of common sense with up to date harm reduction and drug policy  
  • - The Drugs Wheel can be used as a training tool and as a game for use in training or 1:1 sessions. There are free versions of each to download on this site, as well as a range of drug and information fact sheets 
  • - Harm reduction guide to safer drug use 
  • - Evidence based information on drugs, alcohol and tobacco, including NPS


  • Tootoot - safeguarding app for professionals


  • Talk to Frank - 0300 123 6600, open all day every day
  • Samaritans - 116 123, open all day every day
  • Childline (under 19s) – 0800 1111, open all day every day
  • Mind infoline (mental health) - 0300 123 3393, open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays)
  • Call 999 if you feel you or someone else is in immediate danger