Map your steps - AOD and Young Adults

The key steps involved in delivering activities targeting young people are provided below.

These will be a useful starting point for developing your Community Action Plan activity and informing your approach.

These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to your local community.

LDATs may be responsible for delivering project activities if they have the appropriate expertise. Alternatively, they can work with their partners and communities to support the delivery of these project activities. This might include:

  • engaging with workplaces, higher education institutions and community organisations to raise awareness about alcohol and other drug related risks and harm minimisation for young adults and to motivate them to take action
  • engaging with young adults in workplaces and/or on campuses involved in student or employee-based peer support roles
  • providing evidence and data on alcohol and other drug-related harms and the benefits of harm minimisation in young adults
  • linking with institutions, and workplaces with organisations that provide quality health promotion programs and services
  • promoting collaboration between institutions, workplaces and young adults
  • engage employees and students in volunteer recruitment. For more information about working with volunteers see the LDAT Involving Volunteers toolkit

Engaging your community

You can engage the community on this issue by:

  1. identifying relevant community organisations who have access to young adults in your community
  2. establish key contacts/gatekeepers within those organisations to champion the issue within the organisation
  3. provide your community organisations with evidence-based information about the issue of young people and alcohol and other drugs
  4. establish ‘what’s in it’ for the community organisation
  5. ensure consistency of information being provided by community organisations on the issue by addressing any sensitivities or misinformation that exists within the organisation.

A critical role for LDATs is to engage with their community to put alcohol and other drug-related issues on the public agenda and to motivate them to act.

Studies have found that students and employees who most need health information about substances are the least likely to participate in prevention and harm minimisation projects. This means engaging these students/employees is key.1 Changing the context of information dissemination may be key to this, making information available outside the traditional ‘health based’ services present in education and workplace environments. Increasingly electronic, online and smartphone-based harm minimisation projects have been shown to have successful results.2

Engaging students and employees may not be the only challenge. Engaging institutions, workplaces, and the broader community is also essential.

Research has demonstrated that substance use, especially alcohol consumption, has been normalised in many of these environments.3

Research has demonstrated that activities that successfully engage young adults are:

  • proactive
  • respectful, trustworthy and appropriate
  • have high confidentiality
  • provide practical support and safe spaces
  • are flexible
  • provide multiple types of approaches.4

LDATs may also engage with partners within the broader community when running these activities.

Tips for engaging the community

  • Identify community organisations that you may partner with.
  • Identify key contacts and/or gatekeepers. Find someone in the workplace or higher education institution you’re targeting who can act as a champion and invest time into this project. A champion may be in leadership role, have an influential personality or be a proactive person who is passionate about preventing alcohol and other drug harms. For example, key contacts may include school councils, student unions, or educational staff. Meet face-to-face if you can, rather than just sending out information via email.
  • When discussing alcohol and other drug use in young adults, provide evidence on why young adults are at risk from alcohol and other drug-related harms. Outline how supporting young adults to prevent alcohol and other drug-related harms can help them live longer and healthier lives – and how this is beneficial not just for young adults, but for the wider community.
  • Where possible, it is also good to point out how these activities align with the core business and values of the community organisations that you’re speaking to. Answer the question: ‘What’s in it for me?’. Finding the hook for people will lift their engagement and boost the sustainability of your LDAT’s project.
    Understand the motivations of those you’re speaking to. For example, are they motivated to deliver alcohol and other drug activities due to existing problems, and what are these problems (e.g. high levels of mental health issues in this age demographic)?
  • Be aware of the sensitive nature and complexity of the topic. The task of reducing alcohol use can be challenging in a community where alcohol and socialising goes hand-in-hand.

Providing evidence on alcohol and other drug-related harms for young adults

Providing young people in your community with quality information and resources on alcohol and other drugs by:

  1. providing reputable sources of evidence and= data on the impacts and effects of alcohol and other drugs
  2. working with your established community organisations to establish what steps can be done to raise awareness of the impacts and effects of alcohol and other drugs e.g. at community events, via local media, or through existing networks.

LDATs might provide harm reduction information and awareness directly, or by working with partners.

LDATs have a critical role in providing information and increasing awareness on activities that can minimise harm among young people. For many young people transitioning into higher education and the workforce, substances can be widely available.5 For this reason, engaging young people in harm minimisation activities is important to reduce the possible harms associated with substance use.

The dissemination of harm minimisation information can establish and reinforce strategies that are currently used by young adults for reducing alcohol and other drug-related harm.

LDATs can distribute this kind of information to young adults and community partners in a number of ways. This could include:

  • at workplace or institution events (e.g. O-Week, organisation/workplace events)
  • orientation sessions (e.g. new employees, newly enrolled students etc.)
  • via local media (e.g. on-campus media, internal communication)
  • through new or existing partnerships and networks (e.g. inclusion in partner newsletters)

Examples of harm minimisation strategies for young adults

Examples of harm minimisation strategies

  • Increase the quality/quantity of peer-to-peer messaging on key harm minimisation topics e.g. drinking driving,safe transport options, venue quality and safety, looking out for friends.
  • Improving quality/quantity and knowledge around safe transport.
  • Increase information about harm minimisation behaviours e.g. staying well-hydrated, eating before and while consuming alcohol.
  • Clear, accurate and evidence-based information about the impacts and effects of alcohol and other drugs.6

Evidence of activities for alcohol and other drugs in young adults

Brief Tailored Interventions (BTI)

BTIs have been showing some promise in the area of harm minimisation in higher education
students. BTI can vary from five minutes of brief advice, or 15 minutes of brief counselling. The aim
of BTI is not to treat substance use, but to provide important information about risk and harm
minimisation in an opportunistic, supportive and non-judgemental manner.7,8
BTIs are a low cost and effective way of distributing harm minimisation information and can be
provided by primary care givers, counsellors, or peer-to-peer from information stalls, and campus
health centres.9

BTIs are now also available as smartphone applications.

See also:

Technology based BTI

Short, technology-based activities are being used in an ever-increasing way to influence
numerous kinds of health seeking behaviours, especially in young people. The beneficial effects
of technology-based brief interventions for problematic alcohol have been shown to be popular
with younger adults.

SMS-based activities have been demonstrated to have successful outcomes with regards to
behavioural change in health concerns such as weight loss, smoking cessation and management
of diabetes.10

The Mobile Intervention for Drinking in Young People (MIDY) is a pilot study currently being run by The Burnet Institute that targets drinking habits in university students. Smartphone technology is an innovative and accessible platform for the specific and tailored dissemination of harm minimisation information.11

Smartphone application make brief tailored intervention available to large numbers of university students.

General Workplace Health Promotion

Workplace based health promotion has been demonstrated to have an impact on young people
both in and outside the workplace.12

All workplaces should have a health and wellbeing policy.

See also:

Peer education intervention

Peer education interventions have been demonstrated to be a vital part of health promotion in university settings. Involving peers in the delivery of health promotion helps to ensure that information is delivered in an age-appropriate and friendly manner.

See also

Increasing community participation and social connection

Increase community participation and social connection by:

  1. working with your community organisation partners to plan a range of activities to increase participation and social connection
  2. establish sources of quality information on the impacts and effects of alcohol and other drugs on young adults
  3. developing a series of promotional activities to raise awareness on the impacts and effects of alcohol and other drugs on young people
  4. use local media to promote healthy activities and services for young adults
  5. connecting young adults to counselling services and relevant helplines.

LDATs can also provide advice and support to help community organisations determine a course of action for delivering quality activities to reduce the use of alcohol and other drugs.

Consider action to increase social networks. This could include running networking events or increasing membership of local groups. Your team can build social connection through arts participation, promoting civic engagement and volunteering, increasing people’s sense of belonging, and promoting a culture where people support one another to engage in low-risk drinking practices.

Examples of actions that could increase community participation and social connection include:

  • offering activities for young adults that provide opportunities to meet and connect with peers
  • assisting new students and employees to make them feel part of their new community or workplace
  • setting up information stalls at work or university events to inform people of health issues and how they can take action to reduce risks to their health
  • use local/university media, social media and technology to promote healthy activities and services so they can be of benefit to people
  • promoting local counselling services on university campuses and in workplaces, as well as promoting telephone helplines.

Linking community organisations to quality programs and services

Link community organisations to quality programs and services by:

A key role of Local Drug Action Teams is to link communities to quality alcohol and other drug programs. These may include:

  • existing education programs
  • expert guest speakers, sourced from local networks or peak bodies
  • accurate information and materials, such as the NHMRC guidelines
  • upskilling opportunities for young adults
  • social and networking opportunities for young adults
  • healthcare services, such as mental health services
  • state alcohol and drug information and support services.

Promoting collaboration between community organisations

Promote collaboration between community organisations to:

LDATs have a key role in facilitating productive partnerships between employees/students and workplaces/institutions. Collaboration between your target populations may focus on:

  • delivering workplace/institution-wide awareness raising initiatives and education programs
  • building supportive and inclusive health and wellbeing programs/services to reduce stigma and increase health-seeking behaviour (facilitating safe and supportive health and wellbeing services is a key goal in making people feel comfortable and confident enough to seek treatment and support)
  • helping to create a culture where the age-specific harm associated with alcohol and other drug consumption is recognised
  • creating strong community referral networks (This might include working with healthcare service providers to facilitate referral pathways for people experiencing mental health issues, and those who need more specific alcohol and other drug-related treatment).

Measuring success and reporting

You can measure the success of your activities by:

  1. collecting measures of success with the community organisations you are engaging with, as well as the young adults you have been reaching with your alcohol, other drugs and young adults activity. Consider doing follow-up with both the community organisations you are engaging with as well as the young adults you have been reaching to track their progress
  2. report on your success, acquit your funds and consider other things you can do to support young adults in your community.

  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. Grace, J, Moore, D & Northcote, J, 2009, ‘Alcohol, Risk and Harm Minimisation: Drinking Amongst Young Adults in Recreational Settings in Perth’ National Drug Research Institute Curtin University of Technology
  4. Crane, P, Francis, C & Buckley, J 2013, ‘Youth alcohol & drug practice guide 3: Practical Strategies and Interventions’ Dovetail, Brisbane.
  5. Schofield, T, 2014, ‘Alcohol Use and Harm Minimisation among Australian University Students (AHMS Project) University Colleges Australia, 2014
  6. Grace, J, Moore, D & Northcote, J, 2009, ‘Alcohol, Risk and Harm Minimisation: Drinking Amongst Young Adults in Recreational Settings in Perth’ National Drug Research Institute Curtin University of Technology
  7. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2005 ‘Alcohol Alert Number 66: Brief Interventions’ NIAA
  8. Henry-Edwards, S, Humeniuk, R, Ali, R, Monterio, M & Poznyam, V, 2003, ‘Brief Intervention for Substance Use: A Manuel for Use in Primary Care (Draft Version 1.1 for Field Testing). Geneva, World Health Organisation, 2003.
  9. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2005 ‘Alcohol Alert Number 66: Brief Interventions’ NIAA
  10. 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
  11. The Burnet Institute, 2018, ‘MIDY: The Mobile Intervention for Drinking in Young people (pilot)’ The Burnet Institute
  12. Pidd, K, Boeckmann, R & Morris, M, 2009, ‘Adolescents in Transition: The role of workplace alcohol and other drug policies as a prevention strategy’ Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy

Was this page helpful?