For health professionals
The Drink Thing website can act as a tool to help you engage with young people about alcohol. The site has an inbuilt test, the AUDIT C. This test is based on evidence based measures and can provide a score indicating levels of risk in relation to alcohol use. The test can be completed independently by a young person or alongside a professional.
Below is some information and useful links to help you when working with young people around alcohol.
How can I tell if a young person may need help?
The following changes in behaviour may indicate that a young person is struggling. These do not necessarily indicate indicate that the young person is using alcohol or other drugs. If the young person is experiencing some of these signs, please talk to them. Ask them if they are ok and if they need help. Ask them about their alcohol and other drug use.
- Different behaviour from their usual self-e.g. mood swings, sulking, easily irritated or angry for no obvious reason
- Not enjoying or wanting to do things that they usually enjoy
- Changes in appetite or sleep, lack of energy, tired all the time.
- Isolates self, spends very little time with others.
- Sudden or unexplained change to a new group of friends.
- School or work deteriorates, truancy.
- Experiencing difficulties with their concentration.
- Seeming unusually stressed, worried, down or crying for no obvious reason.
- Expressing negative, distressing, bizarre or unusual thoughts.
- Indications that they may be responsible for valuable items or money that is missing.
How to - Brief Intervention
If you are concerned about a young person's drinking, consider engaging them in a brief intervention. It is very important to talk to the young person in a respectful and non-judgemental way and remind them about confidentiality.
- Find out what the young person thinks about their drinking - Are they aware a problem exists? Why are they drinking? Do they have any intention of changing their drinking? Are they already taking steps to modify their behaviour? What is their goal around alcohol use? Refer to the section below for some sample Questions to elicit information and motivation to change
- Encourage them to "Take the test" –The World Health Organisation's AUDIT C, is a very reliable and quick screening tool that will determine a person's level of risk around their alcohol use. Objective results that identify high risk drinking can help to elicit motivation to change.
- Psychoeducation and harm reduction – provide some basic information about the risks of drinking for young people and how to reduce these risks if they choose to keep drinking
- Engage with parents and/or carers – it can be very worrying for parents when their adolescent is misusing alcohol. Refer them to the Info for Parents section of this site.
While we encourage you to engage with your patients around their alcohol and other drug (AOD) use, please be aware that an AOD intervention is a specialist field and requires a unique set of skills. If you are worried about a young person and wish to access a specialist AOD service for a secondary consultation please visit the Get Help page or consider a referral to the specialist Alcohol and Drug Service, noting the need to respect and maintain confidentiality.
Please note alcohol misuse is often a complex functional issue. There are usually reasons behind a person's use, for example, trauma, depression or stress. Addressing the alcohol use in isolation is therefore often ineffective. Alcohol use is best understood in the broader context of the lives of young people who use it.
Questions to elicit information and motivation to change
The following are simple questions based on the Motivational Interviewing approach. There is no prescription here. Choose or adapt questions below based on your individual client.
What do they know or think about alcohol?
- "What are your thoughts about your alcohol use?"
- "What is your understanding of the harms that can come from drinking alcohol?"
If a client is indicating a desire to change try these questions
- Why would you want to make this change?
- If you were to make this change, how might you go about it?
- What might be your three best reasons to make this change?
- On a scale of zero to 10, how important is it for you to make this change? Why are you at that number rather than a zero?
Looking to the future
- Putting aside how you might do this – or whether you even decide to make the change – how might your life be better if you did find a way to make this change?
- When you look ahead, how would you like your life to be? What would you like to see happening with your [focus of change conversation, e.g. drinking or schooling]?
- If this were no longer a problem, how might that make your life easier?
- If it were your best friend in this situation, what would your advice to them be?
If they seem ready to make a change:
- Where does this leave you?
- What might your next step be?
- What would you like to do now?
FYI… DSM-5 Criteria for Alcohol Use Disorder
Under DSM-5 criteria Alcohol Use Disorder is diagnosed through evaluation of 11 symptoms contained within the 4 categories of 'impaired control', 'social impairment', 'risky use' and 'pharmacological'. The presence of 2 or more symptoms within a 12 month period meet the criteria to diagnose a disorder, with the presence of 2-3 symptoms indicating a mild disorder (305.00), 4-5 a moderate disorder (303.90), and 6 or more a severe disorder (303.90).