Early trauma can have a devastating effect on children, leaving them more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol. We need to be ready to help at this formative stage, say Addaction and YoungMinds. Children who experience trauma are more likely to misuse drugs and alcohol \u2013 a situation that needs to be tackled urgently by local commissioners, say Addaction and YoungMinds. The two charities have joined forces to publish Childhood Adversity, Substance Misuse and Young People\u2019s Mental Health, a briefing paper and action plan that aims to help young people avoid high risk substance misuse and further trauma from being criminalised. The paper has been sent to all clinical commissioning groups across the country and urges local commissioners and providers to do more to tackle the issue, including making drug and alcohol education universal across all schools. Among key issues, it highlights that children who have experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences \u2013 like abuse, neglect, domestic violence, taking on adult responsibilities or living in households where people misuse substances \u2013 are twice as likely to binge drink and 11 times more likely to use crack cocaine or heroin. If children regularly use substances from an early age, it can substantially impact their neurobiological and cognitive develop\u00adment, as well as affecting their ability to learn skills to self-soothe or self-regulate when faced with further emotional stress. Ultimately, this has a negative impact on their physical and mental health. More than 200,000 children in England now live with at least one adult who is alcohol dependent, which can have a significant impact on their parenting abilities and make it more likely they\u2019ll expose their child to adversity and trauma \u2013 often leading to an intergenerational cycle. As their substance misuse escalates, young people can find themselves face to face with the police or youth justice system, where neither their mental health, nor the trauma they have faced is adequately addressed. \u2018Young people get a rough ride in the media with sensationalist headlines about drug or alcohol use,\u2019 says Addaction\u2019s chief executive Mike Dixon. \u2018It\u2019s vital we stand up and highlight that for some young people, use of drugs or alcohol is their attempt to numb or cope with trauma or emotional distress. We can better support young people if commissioned services are trauma-informed and if professionals\u00a0understand why and how young people use substances.\u2019 Rick Bradley is operations manager of Addaction\u2019s Mind and Body programme, aimed at young people at risk of self-harming. \u2018We must ensure young people can talk openly about mental health and substance use without fear of being judged and stigmatised,\u2019 he says. \u2018Talking to peers has helped the young people on the Mind and Body programme realise it is okay not to be okay all of the time, with three in four reporting an improvement in wellbeing. We hope we can inspire and empower other young people to follow their lead.\u2019 \u2018We know that children who have had a difficult start in life are far more likely to develop long-term mental health problems, and drugs and alcohol misuse may often play a role in this \u2013 that\u2019s why it\u2019s crucial that commissioners invest in early intervention to ensure that the children most at risk get the right support quickly,\u2019 says Dr Marc Bush, chief policy adviser at YoungMinds. \u2018It\u2019s also vital that professionals working in A&E departments or in specialist drug and alcohol services have the skills they need to explore whether young people are self-medicating as a way of managing painful feelings and memories. We need to dig beneath the surface and make sure we address the cause of dangerous behaviour in young people, and not just the symptoms.\u2019 To read the full briefing\u00a0click here ****************************** National Young Person\u2019s Conference success Young people from all over the UK came together for Addaction\u2019s recent National Young Person\u2019s Conference at The Oval cricket ground. The event was a chance for young people to speak frankly about their experiences growing up, how they find accessing the support on offer at Addaction and more generally within mental health and substance misuse services. While drug and alcohol issues among young people have been broadly in decline since 2001, self harm is increasingly common. The conference gave young people the chance to talk to staff and professionals about why that might be, and what life\u2019s like for a teenager right now. A panel of young people offered their thoughts including: \u2022 \u2018When people say it\u2019s \u201cjust my hormones\u201d I think: but maybe it\u2019s not. Listen, maybe I actually am going through something.\u2019 \u2022 \u2018As a teenager I feel I have to be strong and confident\u2026 if I were to break down in tears randomly, I think I\u2019d get judged.\u2019 \u2022 \u2018I think it\u2019s difficult having to balance out your school life, social life, and getting enough sleep. Especially if you have a weekend job. They say you\u2019re supposed to have eight hours sleep. But that can actually be hard.\u2019 \u2022 \u2018Family wants you to do well, so the pressure they put on you can make you feel really stressed. And like you\u2019re also putting pressure on yourself. I feel like the stress is real but you need to find that balance between working hard and having fun \u2013 believing in yourself that you can do well.\u2019 \u2022 \u2018At primary school, you can rely on the adults and older children to look up to. When you\u2019re in secondary school, suddenly it\u2019s you \u2013 you are that older child people need to look up to. And expectations come from teachers, parents and ourselves.\u2019 \u2022 \u2018I feel like there\u2019s two kinds of stereotype, where you\u2019re either really stressed and working hard to do well all the time, or you\u2019re not doing any work at all and you\u2019re lazy\u2026 and it\u2019s more complicated than that.\u2019 The event also marked the release of the expert briefing, Childhood adversity, substance misuse and young people\u2019s mental health. Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, outlined the premise of the report, emphasising that while we are seeing the stigma around mental health shift, \u2018for young people it\u2019s still tough\u2019. In a talk on \u2018health, social function and wellbeing\u2019, Professor Harry Sumnall of the Centre for Public Health commented that \u2018the role of good policy is to provide positive, supportive healthy environments \u2013 young people waiting 19 weeks to be seen by CAMHS is a political issue\u2019. Shirley Cramer of the Royal Society for Public Health then shared #StatusofMind, a recent report from the RSPH and the Young Health movement, examining the positive and negative effects of social media on young people\u2019s mental health. The biggest cheer of the event was for a short film Step Out of the Crowd, put together by Addaction\u2019s Mind and Body staff and service users. In it, young adolescent men talk about self-harm, the importance of talking about their feelings, and their hopes for the future. Visit Addaction\u2019s YouTube channel to see the film or the Facebook page to watch the talks. ****************************** Addaction and YoungMinds are calling for local commissioners to ensure that local services provide support for children and families by: Making sure all young people at primary and secondary school receive universal-level, age-appropriate drug and alcohol education and psychoeducation, looking at risks, relationships and how to build resilience for decision-making. This should be delivered by those with a good knowledge of child adversity, trauma responses, mental ill health and substance use. Introducing route enquiries about childhood adversity at A&E, urgent care, and specialist drug and alcohol services. Investing in early intervention models. Research is clear that the age a young person starts using substances is a strong predictor of the severity of their use later on in life. Early intervention should initially be targeted at children with a known risk factor or in a vulnerable group, eg looked-after children or young offenders. Building targeted support for parents and the whole family to promote recovery from addiction, alongside addressing adversity the children have been exposed to. Establishing inter-agency collaboration to make sure all a young person\u2019s needs are met, while recog\u00adnising any trauma and adversity they\u2019ve experienced.