Adolescence is a critical developmental stage when young people make lifestyle choices that have the potential to impact on their current and future health and social wellbeing. The relationship between substance use and criminal activity is complex but there is clear evidence that the prevalence of problematic substance use is far higher among adolescent offenders than the general adolescent population. Adolescent offenders are a marginalized and vulnerable population who are significantly more likely to experience health and social inequalities in later life than their non-offending peers.
There is a paucity of evidence on effective interventions to address substance use and risk-taking behaviours in adolescent offender populations but it is clear that preventative or abstinence orientated interventions are not effective. RISKIT-CJS is an intervention developed in collaboration with young people taking account of the current best evidence. Feasibility and pilot studies have found the intervention addresses the needs of adolescents, is acceptable and has demonstrated potential in reducing substance use and risk-taking behavior.
The study is a mixed method, two-armed, prospective, pragmatic randomized controlled trial with individual randomisation to either treatment as usual alone or the RISKIT-CJS intervention in addition to treatment as usual. Adolescents, aged 13 to 17 years inclusive, engaged with the criminal justice system who are identified as having problematic substance use are eligible to participate. The study will be conducted across three geographical areas; South and South East England, London and North East England between March 2017 and February 2019.
The study represents an ambitious programme of work to address an area of need for a marginalized and vulnerable population.