(Unsplash photo)

‘Zero-tolerance’ approach to drug use not working with B.C. teens: study

UBC researchers interviews more than 80 teenagers about zero-tolerance and harm reduction

For parents, talking to their children about drug and alcohol use can be like navigating through a field of landmines. But a new study is shedding light on what to say and how to say it.

Researchers at the University of B.C. and University of Calgary released their latest findings Friday, which found that the traditional “don’t do drugs” messaging doesn’t reach teens as well as talking about harm reduction.

The study involved speaking with 83 teenagers aged 13 to 18 from across B.C. about substance use.

“Teens told us that they generally tuned out abstinence-only or zero-tolerance messaging because it did not reflect the realities of their life,” UBC nursing professor and researcher Emily Jenkins said in a news release.

READ MORE: ‘B.C. cannot wait for action’: Top doctor urges province to decriminalize illicit drugs

“Either they or their peers were already using substances, or substance use was happening in their own family circles.”

Harm reduction is a philosophy that has been taken on widely by health officials and drug advocates across the province to combat the current overdose crisis. The method acknowledges that substance use – including drugs, cigarettes or alcohol – is a part of life, and focuses on reducing risk and harmful effects instead of condemning it.

“Youth were more receptive when their parents talked – in a non-judgmental way – about substance use or could point to resources or strategies to help minimize the harms of use. This approach seemed to work better in preserving family relationships and youth health,” said Jenkins.

According to the study findings, some teens who used substances despite their families’ zero-tolerance approach reported feeling disconnected from their families.

READ MORE: B.C.’s health officer releases annual report on health targets

One teen that participated in the study and who admitted to drinking occasionally said she experienced difficulties with her mother, who never drank.

“When she was a teenager she never did any of that…so to her, that’s like, I’m going to hell,” the study read.

Researchers also found that teens who were from a zero-tolerance household faced difficulties helping and supporting friends who were struggling with substance use.

Earlier this year, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in an annual report that 16.5 per cent of kids 12 years and older engage in “hazardous drinking,” and has been on the rise since 2009.

Seventeen youth between 10 and 18 years old died from an illicit drug overdose last year. A further 297 died at the ages of 19 to 29.

But the study also found that teens still value setting limits, Jenkins said.

“An overly lenient approach to substance use did not work either,” she said. “One participant who drank alcohol frequently said she was ‘sick of it’ but did not know how to scale back her drinking as her parents ‘don’t really care about what I do. I could go home drunk and they won’t do anything.’”

So what can parents do before initiating a chat with their kids?

Jenkins recommended that parents use the legalization of cannabis as an opportunity to have open and honest dialogue, but also educate themselves first.

Parents can look to the Sensible Cannabis Toolkit developed by the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, as well as Cycles – a guide created by the UBC school of nursing researchers on youth and substance use.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Sport Abbotsford calls for opening of Centennial Outdoor Pool

Local sport association claims lack of consulting from City of Abbotsford in decision process

Grand opening for Abbotsford Otter Co-op set for Monday

East Abbotsford store offering number of sales and prizes at opening event

Fraser Valley Bandits, CEBL bringing pro sports back later this month

Abbotsford-based basketball team kicks off CEBL Summer Series on July 26

UFV Cascades men’s basketball signs pair of players

Burnaby’s Wilson, South Delta’s Willemsen added to team

VIDEO: Car goes off Highway 1 and into a ditch in Chilliwack

Eastbound vehicle left the highway ending in the ditch on south side of Luckakuck Way

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

Friends, family remember victim of Langley possible triple-homicide fire at memorial

Memorial held for one the of three found dead at a house fire in Langley Meadows last month

Family and friends mark birthday of teen who died after being discovered in Langley park

Carson Crimeni suffered an apparent drug overdose, his final moments broadcast on social media

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Semi and BMW collide on South Surrey highway

At least one person to hospital, both vehicles sustained significant damage

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

Most Read