June 23 - Annual Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (DARC) Conference

Young People, Substance Use and the Criminal Justice System: Defining the Challenges and Developing Responses

Speaking: Michael O'Toole, Mentor CEO


Adolescence and young adulthood are important periods for initiation into substance use (including tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs) and for use to become established patterns of behaviour. During this time, interventions are needed to prevent onset into different forms of substance use, reduce escalation into heavy substance use and intervene to reverse problematic substance use. The groups considered most vulnerable or at risk of developing problematic substance use include young offenders, young people in institutional care, early school leavers and students with social or academic problems and young people living in disadvantaged families or neighbourhoods where multiple risk factors associated with drug use are concentrated.  Although vulnerable groups have been highlighted as a priority group in many national drug policies, there is no indication that the provision of bespoke interventions has necessarily increased as a result of this attention.  In particular, there has been very little attention paid to young people who are in contact with the criminal justice system in relation to policy and practice.

This conference aims to bring together the perspectives of practitioners, policy makers, and researchers to stimulate critical thinking around developing effective responses for young people with substance use problems who are in contact with the criminal justice system. 

Key questions which will be tackled during the conference include:

  • How is substance use changing for young people in contact with the criminal justice system? 
  • What are the challenges in providing effective responses for this group? 
  • Is there a need for bespoke interventions? 
  • What does good practice look like in this area? 
  • What are alternative ways to work with this group?


The conference is supported by the School of Law, Middlesex University London and the journal, Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy. 


Mentor Chief Executive Michael O'Toole will be leading a session on Peer based approaches to substance misuse prevention in custody.


When and Where

Friday 23rd June 2017

09:30 - 16:30


Middlesex University London
The Burroughs
London, NW4 4BT