AOD and Young Adults overview

Alcohol, Other Drugs and Young Adults refers to a group of activities (e.g. awareness raising campaigns and education activities) that aim to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms in young adults.

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What is Alcohol, Other Drugs and Young Adults?

This toolkit focuses on providing evidence-informed information around:

  • the vulnerabilities that some young adults may face moving into higher education and the workforce
  • how young adults can be supported in their transition into tertiary, higher education and the workforce by building social connections that reduce their risk of experiencing alcohol and other drug-related harms
  • influencing the quality of higher education and workplace environments to better support prevention of alcohol and other drug-related harm.

Which target audience does this toolkit focus on?

This toolkit is targeted at young adults transitioning from a secondary school & certificate of applied learning environment into higher education and the workforce. While often an exciting time for young people, this can also be a time of large transition from social, environmental and financial dependence to independence.

Young adulthood may also be a time when many young people who live in regional and remote move to larger cities and towns.

These young people face the challenge not only of a new work/education environment, but also completely new physical and cultural environment.

The age in which this transition happens is also strongly correlated with the beginning of mental health and substance misuse issues.1 Therefore, it is important to ensure that the key institutions in which these life transitions happen are knowledgeable about these risks, and are able to support those who are facing them.2

Tertiary level students are also more likely to suffer higher levels of psychological distress than their community peers, this is combined with generally low-level help seeking behaviour being recorded in students.3

How does this toolkit help to prevent alcohol and other drug-related problems?

There is growing interest in the potential for work and study environments to be health promoting environments.4

Educational institutions and workplaces provide ready access to large numbers of individuals, and often also have access to readily available infrastructure to support potential alcohol and other drug-related programs and projects.

Research also confirms that early recognition, and management of symptoms such as anxiety, depression and substance misuse can help to increase educational and workplace outcomes and productivity. And can also have significant benefits for the building and maintaining of personal relationships.

Almost 50% of young adults are currently in higher education.5 This makes working with tertiary institutions an efficient way to access young people and deliver messages and activities aimed at boosting primary prevention.

Alcohol habits that are formed during young adulthood have been demonstrated to influence drinking patterns later in life.6

How effective are activities aimed at young adults?

Activities and strategies aimed at increasing the capacity of higher education students and young workers to make informed decisions around substance use, and potentially reduce the associated harms, are becoming more common in institutions and workplaces. Smartphone, online, and peer-based activities have shown potential, though more Australian-based research into the efficacy of these activities is needed.7, 8

Many Australian universities now have free counselling available to their students,9 though engagement with services is still low. Strong and effective workplace policies around reducing the misuse of alcohol and other drugs have been demonstrated to positively impact patterns of use outside of the workplace.

  1. Blee, FL, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF & McCann, TV, 2015, ‘Student Driven Mental Health Promotion in an Australian University Setting’ Mental health & Prevention, Vol 3, Pp26–33
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid
  4. Pidd, K, Roche, A & Fischer, J, 2015, ‘A recipe for good mental health: A Pilot randomised controlled trial of a psychological wellbeing and substance use intervention targeting young chefs’ Drugs, Education, Prevention and Policy, Vol 22 No. 4, 2015
  5. Blee, FL, Reavley, NJ, Jorm, AF & McCann, TV, 2015, ‘Student Driven Mental Health Promotion in an Australian University Setting’ Mental health & Prevention, Vol 3, Pp26–33
  6. Thomas, K, Bendtsen, M, Linderoth, C, Karlsson, N, Bendtsen, P & Mussener, U, 2017, ‘Short Message Service (SMS)-based intervention targeting alcohol consumption among university students: study protocol of a randomised controlled trial’ Trials, Vol 18, No. 1
  7. The University of Western Australia, 2019, ‘Alcohol and Other Drug Strategies
  8. Schofield, T, 2014, ‘Alcohol Use and Harm Minimisation among Australian University Students (AHMS Project) University College Australia, 2014.
  9. Ibid

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