As a children and young people’s social care provider you will be committed to ensuring that the health of young people is a high priority and a constant focus of the staff group’s attention. This is achieved in part by embedding the key messages of good heath and well-being outcomes.

With these desired outcomes in mind, staff should work with young people to ensure they are sufficiently educated about the dangers of substance misuse, the long-term implications and the legal implications.

Young people who are upset and troubled are especially open to others who may influence them into trying alcohol, drugs or solvents. Young people may get involved for many reasons. These can be to escape from painful experiences, to seek attention, to rebel, to take risks, or to bow to the pressure of their friends and acquaintances.

Managing Incidents

  • Whenever a member of staff has any suspicion a young person may be misusing alcohol or illegal substances they should report the matter to a senior member of staff.
  • The young person should be spoken with an open yet non-confrontational way to try to find out the circumstances, what substances were used and where.
  • Staff should not make assumptions or accuse the young person. Once the staff member has as much information as can be gained, they should try to put it into some form of context from where it can be decided as to how best to proceed.
  • Young people should be advised when they arrive that if they are caught in the possession of illegal drugs the Police will be informed.

Types of Drugs and Substances

This is a list that may, given the ever-increasing number of substances available, be already out of date at the time of issuing. However, it contains the most well-known substances that at least provides staff with useful background information

  1. Amphetamines (sometimes called speed) are man made powders that can be dissolved in water and injected or even smoked but are generally sniffed.
  2. Cannabis comes in black or brown lumps of resin or looks like grass. Also known as hash, dope, weed, head, grass, ganga, gear, hashish, score, draw, marijuana, puff, bash or pot. It is usually taken by rolling it into a joint or cigarette.
  3. LSD is a man made powder usually taken as pills but may also be supplied in paper, gelatine sheets or sugar cubes.
  4. Cocaine, also known as coke or snow, is a white powder in appearance that can be sniffed or injected. 
  5. Crack is refined cocaine, using other chemicals such as baking powder. It is usually smoked and is rapidly addictive.
  6. Opiates, e.g. heroin (also known as smack or junk). Heroin is a white or brown powder that can be injected, smoked or sniffed.
  7. Ecstasy comes in different coloured capsules or brown or white tablets.8Solvents and gases may be sniffed to produce a similar effect to alcohol. 
  8. Vapours People have been known to use cleaning fluids and lighter fuel. The vapours from these products quickly reach the brain and cause reduced breathing and heart rate which can lead to loss of consciousness.
  9. New psychoactive substances – often incorrectly called legal highs – contain one or more chemical substances which produce similar effects to illegal drugs 
  10. Over the counter drugs (OTC) There are many prescription drugs that can be abused; the most commonly tend to be:
  • Opiates - often prescribed to treat pain e.g. codeine.
  • Central nervous system depressants, which are used to treat anxiety and sleep disorders e.g. barbiturates (although rarely prescribed now) and much more commonly, benzodiazepines such as diazepam and temazepam.
  • Antidepressants, e.g. citalopram and mirtazapine.
  • Antihistamines, e.g. chlorphenamine.
  • Stimulants used to treat ADHD, such as dexamphetamine.

Symptoms of Drug and Substance Misuse

Symptoms may include

Penalties for Drug Posession and Dealing 

Current information on possession and dealing legalities and penalties is available on the home office website.  You may like to check the most up to date information for discussion with young people. 

The maximum penalties for drug possession, supply (dealing) and production depend on what type or ‘class’ the drug is.

Staff Training

In order that staff are suitably trained in specific areas relating to substance misuse you must ensure that training is kept up to date and that specifics are provided for either via needs of the young people or as identified during staff supervision and appraisal. 


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