Home > Planet Youth in WRDATF.

Dillon, Lucy (2019) Planet Youth in WRDATF. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 71, Autumn 2019, pp. 9-11.

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In 2018, the Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) committed itself to supporting the implementation of Planet Youth in parts of the region.1 As a first step, data were collected using the standardised Planet Youth tool with students in schools in participating areas. The results of these surveys are available on the programme’s Irish site, http://www.planetyouth.ie – launched in May 2019.


Planet Youth

Planet Youth is an evidence-based approach to preventing drug use. Developed in Iceland, the prevention model is predicated on three pillars of success: using evidence-based practice; using a community-based approach; and creating and maintaining a dialogue among research, policy, and practice. As outlined in more detail in an article in issue 66 of Drugnet Ireland in 2018, there are three broad elements to the model.1 First, data are collected from young people (aged 15–16 years) through a school-based lifestyle questionnaire that is carried out biennially. This explores background factors, substance use, social circumstances, and potential risk factors associated with substance use. These data are then analysed to identify the scope of the problem and map out the risk and protective factors experienced by the young people in that area.


The second element is where local stakeholders use the findings to plan and deliver a set of prevention responses – stakeholders include researchers, policymakers, practitioners, parents, school personnel, sports facilitators, recreational and extracurricular youth workers, and other interested community members. The third element is described as ‘integrative reflection’ (p. 19),2 whereby the impact of the interventions is measured through regular data collection, interventions amended in response to the findings, and any new issues identified.


Planet Youth in WRDATF

There are three Planet Youth pilot sites in Ireland – Planet Youth Galway, Planet Youth Mayo, and Planet Youth Roscommon. Each site has committed to a five-year pilot programme initiated by WRDATF with the support of partner agencies in the region. Local steering committees have been set up, which include funders and strategic partners. Data have been collected through the standardised lifestyle questionnaire in each of the three areas. A separate report has been produced for each area that includes the findings from each of the 77 questions and a variety of cross-tabulations.3,4,5



Table 1 shows the findings relating to substance misuse from the Planet Youth survey across the three pilot sites.

Other key findings included:

  • Participants across the three counties who are involved in a sports club or a team are less likely to smoke cigarettes or use cannabis, but are more likely to report drunkenness.
  • 30–32% agree somewhat or agree strongly that it is important to drink so that you are not left out of the peer group.
  • Teenagers whose parents are less disapproving of drunkenness are more than twice as likely to have been drunk in the last month in Roscommon and Galway. This increased to two and a half times as likely in Mayo.
  • Being out after midnight was associated with increased substance use. For example, in Mayo, teenagers who reported being out after midnight once or more in the past week were five times more likely to use cigarettes, two and a half times more likely to report drunkenness, and three times as likely to use cannabis.   


Conclusions and recommendations

Across the three reports, the authors draw the same conclusions from the data and make the same set of recommendations. Conclusions drawn include:

  • There are positive findings around protective factors for young people in the area that could be used to shape primary prevention activities. The majority have good relationships with their parents and report being happy and safe in their schools and communities. Parent and family factors scored very highly with strong connections between parents and high levels of parental support and monitoring.
  • The findings reflect what the authors term a ‘broad societal tolerance’ towards underage alcohol use. Alcohol use is seen as an integral part of Irish social life and also has a role in cultural and sporting activities. This cultural accommodation ‘permeates into adolescent decision-making and norms and needs to be challenged’. In contrast, other drugs are not socially accepted in the same way and therefore are used less frequently and are not as tolerated in family or peer settings.
  • A large proportion of young people in the three areas are active in sports and other extracurricular activities. The authors would have expected this to have been a protective factor for all substances, but it is not the case in any of the areas when it comes to alcohol use. They argue that consideration needs to be given as to why this is the case.
  • Based on these findings, the authors make seven recommendations, under each of which is a set of suggested actions. The top level recommendations are: 

1          Improve parental knowledge of the impact of alcohol and other drugs.

2          Utilise the strong connections and communication between young people and their parents.

3          Strengthen collaboration and connections between families.

4          Improve parental knowledge of the impact of unstructured leisure time on substance use.

5          Increase knowledge of peer factors related to substance use.

6          Utilise and develop parental networks.

7          Decrease peer-facilitated access to alcohol and other substances.



1  Dillon L (2018) Planet Youth. Drugnet Ireland, 66 (Summer): 24. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/29607/

2  Sigfúsdóttir ID, Thorlindsson T, Kristjánsson AL, Roe KM and Allegrante JP (2009) Substance use prevention for adolescents: the Icelandic Model. Health Promot Int, 24(1): 16–25. http://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/28656/

3  Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Mayo. Galway: WRDATF. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30531/

4  Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Roscommon. Galway: WRDATF. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30532/

5  Western Region Drug and Alcohol Task Force (WRDATF) (2019) Growing up in the west: county report Galway. Galway: WRDATF. https://www.drugsandalcohol.ie/30528/

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