Preventing and delaying AOD uptake by young people

High school-aged young people are at a critical stage of development. There are concerns that a person who uses alcohol and other drugs (AOD) during this stage, may experience significant AOD harms in the future.

Delaying uptake as long as possible can help to reduce harms.

This in-depth Research Paper explores the evidence underpinning different interventions, programs and campaigns and describes strategies to prevent and delay AOD use by 12-17 year-olds.

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Domains of influence

There are many interconnected domains in a young person’s life - family, social activities, and school. All of these domains influence behaviours.

Understanding the risk factors and the protective factors related to AOD harms within each domain, and how they can be influenced, is crucial to ensure health and wellbeing in young people is optimised.

Models of prevention of AOD harm

Several international models that recognise the complexity of the factors that influence AOD use among young people have been developed. Two well-known models are the Plant Youth Icelandic Prevention model and the Communities That Care model.

Both models group the factors into a number of domains, influenced by the broader environment.


Interventions that seek to prevent or delay AOD use among young people focus on strengthening protective factors in each of the domains of influence and the broader environment.

Adolescence is a complex time of growth, development, new influences, expanding boundaries and personal discovery for young people.

It is also a time of vulnerability and a time when evidence-based interventions to prevent and reduce the harms associated with alcohol and other drug use may have the greatest impact.

By identifying and addressing risk and protective factors for young people, AOD workers, families, schools and communities can work to reduce AOD harm and early uptake.

Some factors, such as the availability of alcohol within a community, ease of access, promotion of alcohol through advertising, sponsorships and social media will continue to create challenges. New initiatives, resources and further research will be required to identify effective approaches to counteract their negative influence in the future.

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