One problem among many: drug use among care leavers in transition to independent living

Ward, Jennifer ORCID logoORCID:, Henderson, Zoe and Pearson, Geoffrey (2003) One problem among many: drug use among care leavers in transition to independent living. Project Report. Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, London, UK. ISBN 1840829575. [Monograph]


This study aimed to examine the way in which care leavers’ drug use developed during the process of transition from being looked after by their local authority to independent living. Two hundred young people, who were preparing to leave local authority care or who had left the family home (typically in conflict situations) to live on their own, were surveyed. Their average age was 18. Survey findings showed levels of illegal drug use amongst this group to be higher than within the general population, particularly use of Class A drugs.

The most popular drug was cannabis, with three-quarters admitting to lifetime use and a third smoking it daily. Overall, there had been a decline in drug use amongst the young people over the past year. In-depth interviews were also conducted with a sub-sample of 30 individuals six months after the initial survey. These interviews displayed a distinction between those who had a relatively smooth transition to independence and those for whom the transition had been chaotic. The latter group was closely associated with heavy drug use. Staying at a hostel during transition from care had an adverse effect on young people’s drug taking as socialising and peer pressure led to increased drug use. On the other hand, the increased responsibilities of running their own home, managing a household budget and pregnancy or parenthood were associated with decreased drug use. For most of the care leavers in the study drug use had been a passing phase, diminishing as they had matured. ‘Maturing out ‘ of drug use occurred at a younger age for young people leaving care than that found in the general population. Possible improvements to drugs services for young care leavers are outlined.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Additional Information: Home Office Research Study 260
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Criminology and Sociology
Item ID: 6419
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Depositing User: Devika Mohan
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2010 06:13
Last Modified: 24 Aug 2022 11:11

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