Group Winning The War On Drugs

An organisation that aims to tackle drug and alcohol problems in Northern Ireland has reported impressive results from its new pilot programme. The Lifematters programme was designed to combat substance misuse among children as young as eight years old.

Ascert (Action on Substances through Community Education and Related Training) revealed the findings of its Lifematters programme pilot during a one day conference today, organised in partnership with Opportunity Youth.

Delegates at the ‘Why Wait’ conference heard that Lifematters, an early intervention group work programme for young people aged between eight and 17, had successfully reduced substance misuse in children and young people.

The key findings include that cannabis use was reduced by 63%, Ecstacy usage was cut in half, steroids were completely wiped out and drinking alcohol to the stage of getting drunk was reduced by 24%.

The young people who took part in the pilot project in Lisburn were mainly introduced through the legal system, where their offences could be linked to substance misuse.

After completing the programme 85% of the young people had no further contact with the criminal justice system.

Ascert and partner organisation Opportunity Youth launched an extended Lifematters programme, covering the whole of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board area, at the conference today at Lisburn Civic Centre.

Lifematters project co-ordinator for Ascert, Raymond McKimm, said: “The positive results from the Lisburn pilot scheme encouraged us to find ways to increase the geographical area and therefore the number of young people we could serve.

“This has been done through partnerships with Opportunity Youth and a range of organisations, who introduce young people to the programme. Traditional interventions have been preventative and educational in nature. Simply making young people more aware of the dangers of substance misuse will not necessarily make them stop using.

“We focus on the young person themselves, their lives and how they make their choices, strengthening their ability to make healthier choices.”