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Why some young people take drugs and others don’t

Why some young people take drugs and others don’tWhy some young people take drugs and others don’t

In order to deal with drug related issues we need to understand the reasons why some young people use drugs and others don’t. The factors which make some people more likely to use and develop an issue with drugs are called ‘risk factors’. The factors which seem to protect others from the risk of drug use are called ’resilience factors’. No one can predict who will go on to use drugs and each situation will be different. Some people will experience issues with drugs and others may not. We know that the younger a person starts using substances then there are higher risks that they will experience mental health or dependency issues later in life. 

What parents can do is look at the factors below – young people who have many risk factors and few resilience factors are more likely to use drugs.




Risk factors


Resilience factors

Environmental context


Drugs are easy to get
Deprevation and social exclusion 
Friends use drugs
Friends in trouble with the law


Positive adult role models
Positive friends
Social capital and supports 

Family factors


Parents use drugs 
Parents don’t monitor activities
Rejected by parents
Parents don’t discipline
Family conflict or divorce
Substance dependency history in family
Family affected by unemployment and other issues


No experience of loss or separation as a child
Strong family unit
Good relationship with parents
Parents supervise and monitor activities

Own lives


Starts smoking, drinking at early age
Starts drug use at early age
Keep taking more drugs
Feels positive about effects of drugs
History of behaviour problems


Starts smoking, drinking at later age
Feels negative about effects of drugs



Feels stressed
Impulsive, hyperactive
Anti-social personality
Mental health concerns


High self-esteem
Thinks before acting



Poor school performance
Don’t expect to do well at school
Don’t care about school
Absence and drop-out
Little formal support


Gets on well with teachers
Wants to do well at school
Does well at school
Good formal support in education


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The HSE and Union of Students in Ireland (USI) ask students to think about drug safety measures when using club drugs
Harm reduction messages from the #SaferStudentNights campaign.
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