(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

Just Posted

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Alert Bay: COVID-19 cases go from 30 to zero thanks to health and emergency planning

Dr. Cutfeet says community leadership set Alert Bay up for success

Kwakiutl First Nation cautiously eases restrictions around COVID-19; Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw to remain locked down for now

Both First Nations near Port Hardy have no COVID-19 cases, and are prioritizing community safety

Pacific Coastal Airlines will resume service next month

‘We are pleased to confirm that we will be resuming scheduled service on June 1, 2020’

MP Rachel Blaney feels low-income boost for seniors falls short, but is pleased with the support for commercial fishers

‘Seniors in our communities have been asking for help with additional costs due to COVID-19’

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Oak Bay man stumbles upon eagle hunting seal, grabs camera just in time

The eagle did ‘a perfect butterfly stroke to shore’ with its prey, photographer says

Most Read