Professional Resources

Drugs and Alcohol

Children and young people are often exposed to the use of drugs and alcohol from a young age. They may well see drug and alcohol use featured on TV, or see them used in their communities. It could be that they live in families where drug and / or alcohol abuse are a problem.

As children get older they will see friends experimenting with substances and may well use them themselves. Giving children and young people the information and tools to make safe decisions is essential.  

Settings can play a part in helping children and young people understand the risks both drug and alcohol misuse poses to both their physical and mental wellbeing. They also play a vital role in giving young people the resilience and emotional tools to keep themselves safe.

Dive Deeper

In Professional Settings

Secondary schools are required to offer education on the use of substances. It should form a part of RSE and PSHE education and be offered as part of a ‘spiral’ curriculum – revisited over the school career as children grow and develop.

The effectiveness of education on health risks for this age group is complicated by their brain development. They are ‘pre-programmed’ to seek pleasure, take risks and be influenced by peers.

PSHE work around self esteem and building resilience can help children and young people negotiate the challenges they will inevitably face in making safe decisions. There is much evidence that ‘scare tactics’ do not work in deterring young people from trying drugs and alcohol. 

The Governments drug strategy(2017) sets out how they will tackle the complex issue of drug misuse. A broader approach is likely to have more impact- allowing for open discussion including;

  • Attitudes towards drugs and alcohol in society.
  • How alcohol use is portrayed in the media.
  • How young people can be assertive and manage peer pressure.

Read NICE guidance on drug misuse prevention.

If a Young Person Discloses Drug or Alcohol Misuse

There may be concerns about the young person already, they may be tired, unmotivated, and disruptive. They may have poor attendance. They may disclose to you of their own volition. You may be told by other pupils, or the child may be intoxicated in their setting. Follow your settings safeguarding policies to ensure the immediate safety of the young person as the priority.

A professional who knows the young person can play an important role in giving them time and space to talk about what is happening for them. Find a private space for the conversation.

  • Talk about what you have noticed in terms of their behaviour and presentation.
  • Avoid accusations - Don’t try and scare them.
  • Ask the young person if they have any thoughts about what they would like to change - harnessing their own motivation for things to be better is always more effective.
  • Support them to share their problem with a parent / carer – consider their Gillick Competency.
  • Agree to talk again.
  • Seek support and advice from your safeguarding lead.

Be mindful that there may be others needing support in their peer group. They may also be misusing substances, or exposed to pressure to do so.


Public Health England

Resources for key stage 3 & 4:

Other Resources

  • Drinkaware has resources specifically to support school PSHE
  • Read Scottish Government's Review of ‘What Works’ in drug and alcohol prevention education.

Organisations That Can Support

The Matthew Project offer support to children and young people using substances, affected others, and support to parents and carers who are concerned about their child’s substance misuse.


'All Our Health' offer free, bite-sized e-learning sessions - to improve the knowledge, confidence and skills of health and care professionals in preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing. The sessions cover some of the biggest issues in public health including;

  • Childhood obesity 
  • Pollution
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)

They contain signposting to trusted sources of helpful evidence, guidance and support to help professionals embed prevention in their everyday practice.

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