A qualitative study exploring young offenders’ perspectives on alcohol and other drug health promotion

Publication Name

BMC Public Health


Background: Drugs and alcohol can cause significant harm to individuals, families and communities. Young offenders represent an important population group, which often sport many characteristics that make them highly vulnerable to experiencing harm from drug use. For decades, research has shown the complexity of health behaviours and the need to consider consumer perspectives to respond and support different populations effectively. Methods: This study utilised qualitative inquiry to explore young offenders’ (aged 13 to 18 years) experiences with drug use. The study sought to discern the pathways to drug dependencies for young people and to understand how community organisations can better support young people involved with the justice system. Results: Three themes were identified in the data. First, the clear lack of knowledge about how to reduce harm from drug use among young offenders. Second, the structural and environmental influences on drug use and the need to develop personal skills and knowledge, alongside advocating for supportive environments for good health. Third, the power and hope that a youth advocate with lived experience can bring to the harm prevention and health promotion field. Conclusions: Community services have an integral role in ensuring drug and alcohol education is accessible for different youth populations. Importantly, health promotion organisations should raise awareness about the environmental influences on drug use behaviours, and work deliberately to include consumer perspectives in the design and planning of prevention and harm reduction strategies.

Open Access Status

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

University of Wollongong



Link to publisher version (DOI)