AOD concepts and mentoring

AOD concepts and mentoring

AOD concepts and mentoring

This page supports LDATs to build knowledge and understanding of how to prevent and minimise the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs, and support young people to live healthy and fulfilling lives, unlimited by alcohol and drug harm.

Alcohol and drug use

Stages of drug use
Stages of drug use
The drug triangle visual prompt
The drug triangle visual prompt

AOD Primary Prevention

Learn: AOD Lifecycle Planner

AOD Lifecycle Planner

Avoiding stigmatising language checklist

Learn: Avoiding stigmatising language checklist

Avoid stigmatising language checklist

Alcohol and young people

Adolescence is a time when positive steps can be taken to reduce the potential for alcohol-related harms.

Younger people are particularly vulnerable to alcohol-related harms for several reasons:

  • they're experiencing profound physical and emotional changes
  • they're heavily influenced by role models
  • they may engage in increased risk-taking
  • their brains are still developing (the brain continues to develop until the age of 25), so they're more sensitive to even low amounts of alcohol.

LDATs can act together with parents, policymakers, schools and communities to protect young people from alcohol-related harms.

Focus on young people

Young people refers to people aged 12-25 years.

Adolescence and young adulthood marks a significant period of transition in a person’s life.

It's a time when young people are undergoing rapid emotional, physical and intellectual changes and many modifiable behaviours or risk factors (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) either emerge or accelerate during this time.

The natural transition from childhood to adulthood places young people at a crossroads of – often intensely felt – physical and emotional changes.

The physical changes include the introduction of sex hormones during puberty as well as significant changes and development in the brain.

The adolescent period is typically between 10–19 years of age, although research suggests we should recognise that development continues into the mid-20s.

As part of adolescent development many young people engage in increased risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviours, and related experiences may play an important role in shaping and preparing the brain for adulthood.2,3

This common shift in behaviour towards searching for novelty and excitement can be expressed in many ways, including experimentation with alcohol.

Drinking alcohol is part of Australia’s culture and adolescents have traditionally seen access to alcohol as a badge of adulthood.

Yet, while adolescence and young adulthood may be seen as a time to try drinking alcohol, it's a particularly risky time to start drinking because the brain is undergoing substantial development.

In fact, many of the regions of the brain undergoing development at this time are “particularly sensitive to even fairly low doses of alcohol.”2

Exposure to alcohol during adolescence and young adulthood can increase the risk of a young person never reaching their full intellectual potential. It can also increase the risk of problematic drinking in the future.2,4,5

Focus on alcohol

  • Alcohol is the most consumed drug in Australia, and it’s the drug most commonly used by young people.6,7
  • Alcohol contributes to all the leading causes of death for young people: suicide, land transport accidents, accidental poisoning, and assault.8,9
  • In a 2016-17 survey of young Australians aged 14–19 years who were drinking at risky levels, 83% reported being injured as a result of that drinking in the past year.10
  • Early drinking, even sips or tastes, is connected to earlier and more harmful patterns of alcohol consumption.4,11
  • Long-term alcohol consumption is linked to six different types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and liver disease.8

Although some young people are still drinking, and drinking in risky ways, fewer young people overall are choosing to drink and those who do are starting later.6,12

Over the past 10 years, the proportion of people aged 14–17 who chose not to drink alcohol increased from 39% to 73%.13 The average age at which young people aged 14–24 first tried alcohol has steadily risen from 14.7 years in 2001 to 16.2 years in 2019.13

Research suggests that decreases in youth alcohol consumption may be connected to changes in Australian parents’ attitudes and reductions in the availability of alcohol.12,4

Findings from the 2017 Australian Secondary Students’ Alcohol and Drug (ASSAD) survey showed that one third (34%) of students aged 14–17 years reported that they had never consumed alcohol.15 For people aged 18 and over, 11.4% have never consumed a full serve of alcohol and 9.3% had not consumed an alcoholic drink in the last 12 months.6

Insights into young people

A recent survey of young Australians, aged 15–19 years, identified both their values and issues of concern.16

What young people value:

  • friendships
  • family relationships
  • school or study satisfaction.

Where young people go for help:

  • friends
  • parents or guardians
  • relative/family friend.

Issues of personal concern:

  • coping with stress
  • mental health
  • body image.

Issues of national importance:

  • equity and discrimination
  • COVID-19
  • mental health.

Activities young people are involved in:

  • sports (as a participant)
  • sports (as a spectator)
  • arts/cultural.
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