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Young people in drug treatment in Ireland: their views on substance use aetiology, trajectory, parents’ role in substance use and coping skills

  • C. D. Darker (a1), D. Palmer (a2), G. O’Reilly (a3), L. Whiston (a1) and B. Smyth (a4)...

The aim of the current study was to gain insight into the process of initiation and progression to problematic use among young people who reach clinically significant levels of substance use requiring treatment.


Twenty young people, aged between 15 and 19 years from two different drug treatment centres in Ireland were interviewed regarding their views on their pathway into substance use, their progress to more problematic use, their perception of their parents’ role, if any, in their trajectory and their typical coping style before treatment. Content analysis was conducted on the resulting narratives.


The use of substances to cope with life stressors emerged as a prominent theme at initial and problematic stages of use. Multiple maladaptive coping approaches were reported. Both direct and indirect influences from parents in their substance use problem were cited. However, some participants reported that parents had no causal role in their substance use trajectory, in particular regarding mothers.


The current findings suggest that substance misuse is a multi-determined problem and a number of intervention strategies are suggested to delay onset and related harms associated with adolescent substance use.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Dr C. Darker, BA, MPsychSc, PhD, RegPsychol. Adelaide Assistant Professor in Health Services Research, Department of Public Health & Primary Care, Trinity College Centre for Health Sciences, Adelaide and Meath Hospital, incorporating the National Children’s Hospital Tallaght, Dublin 24, Ireland. (Email:
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Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine
  • ISSN: 0790-9667
  • EISSN: 2051-6967
  • URL: /core/journals/irish-journal-of-psychological-medicine
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