(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.

Just Posted

Haida film Now Is The Time selected for Sundance

Recognition continues for tale of Old Massett totem pole raising

Future of Sandspit Inn hangs in the balance, Transport Canada not renewing lease

Transport Canada and Sandspit Community Society set to discuss options

UPDATED: Ferry cancellations and significant wind warning in effect for Haida Gwaii

Loose objects may be tossed by the wind says Environment Canada, BC Ferries cancels sailings

Adverse weather conditions lead to pair of ferry cancellations

Northern Expedition sailings from Prince Rupert and Skidegate affected

This week in photos | The spirit of giving comes to Haida Gwaii

Masset Lions Telethon, Queen Charlotte’s annual craft fair, Fields store coming along in Skidegate

VIDEO: Success of wildlife corridors in Banff National Park has advocates wanting more

Demand for more highway protection escalated after seven elk were killed by a semi-trailer near Canmore

Fans sing Canadian anthem after sound system breaks at BMW IBSF World Cup

The Canadians in attendance made sure their team and flag were honoured on the podium

VIDEO: Fire destroys Big White Ski Resort chalet

Social media eulogies peg the property, nicknamed “The Pharamacy,” as both loved and hated

Prince George RCMP use bait packages to catch porch pirates over the holidays

First-in-Canada program with Amazon looks to combat parcel theft

Nanaimo mechanical engineer creates thief tracking program

Nanaimo Thief Tracking lets users plot and share information about thefts online

Mayor wants B.C. to institutionalize severely mental ill people who are homeless

Those suffering from mental health conditions, such as schizophrenia, need specialized care, mayor says

Five things of note from Trudeau’s mandate letters to his ministers

Some marching orders come from the Liberal Party’s campaign, while others are new additions

Scheer’s resignation tips party into internal war over school tuition payments

The Conservatives have a Toronto convention already scheduled for April

Most Read