A third of deaths among young people in developed countries such as Canada are caused by alcohol and illicit drugs. That’s according to a new paper—coauthored by University of Victoria psychologist and Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia (CARBC) at the University of Victoria director Dr. Tim Stockwell—published in the medical journal The Lancet.
The paper, “Interventions to Reduce Harm Associated with Adolescent Substance Use,” identifies strategies from the international scientific literature that will reduce death, illness and injury among young people.
“The drug that’s killing the greatest amount of young people globally is alcohol—nearly 90 per cent of substance-related deaths in developed countries such as Canada are due to alcohol,” says Stockwell. “A substantial dent could be made in these figures by combining regulatory, early-intervention and harm reduction approaches.”
Stockwell says regulating the price and physical availability of alcohol and tobacco is known to be highly effective. “These lessons could also be applied to the management of some other widely-used drugs such as cannabis,” he says. A previous CARBC study * showed cannabis is “very easy” to obtain in British Columbia and its use is more widespread among BC residents than the rest of Canadians.
Stockwell says another strategy is to reduce the demand for drugs by supporting young people and families at key stages in their development from before birth to teenage years. This includes educating parents on the dangers of using illicit substances during pregnancy and the risks associated with childhood exposure to second-hand smoke.
Harm reduction is another approach Stockwell highlights. Strategies such as random breath testing and graduated driver licensing have reduced the amount of driving-related deaths and injuries.
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