In 2020, the InnerChange Foundation is focused on an especially critical challenge: To reduce the risks of problematic substance use for youth.
There is an alarmingly high level of overdose deaths among youth in BC, with approximately 20% of overdose cases occurring in youth and young adults under 30. Moreover, fatalities among youth under 18 are rising. To address this challenge, we plan to develop an online platform to help youth who use substances. The platform would pursue 3 main goals:
- Support youth in developing lifestyle skills and managing their patterns of substance use
- Help prevent crisis situations that may lead to increased and uncontrolled drug consumption and potential overdose
- Provide early psychotherapeutic interventions to help youth cope with underlying mental health problems
Youth are at high risk of overdose, especially because of:
- Low opiate tolerance
- Fluctuating explorative patterns of use
- A lack of age-appropriate addiction treatment, substitution treatment and individualized mental health support
Our Current Crisis
Harm reduction efforts and the widespread distribution of naloxone kits have rescued many, however, the same individuals may experience a series of overdose events and suffer the consequences of repeated overdose and an increased risk of a fatal overdose. This indicates a shortage of appropriate treatments in a system that does not support individualized needs. Of particular concern is the younger age range in the overdose reports from the BC Centre for Disease Control. This questions whether current treatment programs are accessible and appropriate for youth.
We need to consider the spectrum of needs among adolescents and young adults, including those who are not connected to the system of care or those who do not regularly use substances. In 2019, 56% of persons aged 11-19 who died from an overdose in BC were female, which is significantly higher than adults over 20, where approximately 23% were female. This data shows that we need to adjust the ways we reach out to youth and widen the target population.
The online platform will allow youth to more easily access personalized care and make decisions about what it is they need help with at each point in their journey. This online platform will be designed in a way to attract youth and actively engage them to navigate the material. Although there are many available mobile apps that coach mindfulness, meditation, relaxation for anxiety, etc., none seem to provide comprehensive care for both substance use and underlying mental health issues. Additionally, websites often link out to other web-based solutions but they are not personalized for the individual nor do they provide ongoing support, which is extremely important in order to engage individuals in seeking continued care.