Substance Misuse Screening

Substance misuse amongst young people is an increasing issue that can have devastating consequences. Screening young people around their drug use is an early intervention strategy allowing appropriate support and information with a view to preventing young drug users becoming problematic drug users. This page addresses the screening of children in care.

Screening must take place with:

The use of screening will be monitored through the looked after review process (with checks beginning at the 2nd review), and where necessary action will be recommended as part of the review. For the review, the following information is required :

  1. Date that the screening conversation took place
  2. Details of any substance misuse interventions offered (see screening outcome). This does not have to be a referral but could include basic drugs information, signposting and harm minimisation advice
  3. Details of interventions that were refused (if applicable).


The early identification process


This takes the form of a conversation that can be woven into existing assessment processes.

The aim of screening young people is not simply to establish if the young person has a problem but also to assess the young person's knowledge of drugs and to start a dialogue around all aspects of substance use e.g. the law, long term health implications etc.

The questions in the screen are not prescriptive; they are intended to be used as an aide memoire to guide the conversation. The screening process is not intended to be a tick box exercise and it is not intended that the screen be given to the young person to complete. It is intended that the screen take the form of a conversation / interaction between worker and young person.

Screening should not be carried out as a stand alone activity but as part of the care planning process.



Before screening takes place, all workers should ensure that confidentiality is addressed with the young person. It is important that the young person understands the context in which confidentiality may need to be breached in relation to their substance misuse. Screening is not an intervention and as such, it does not require permission (consent), but of course a young person may refuse to answer questions.

Possible outcomes of the screen

There are four possible outcomes:

  1. No immediate action, review within 6 months with further screen
  2. Provide information and advice, usually undertaken by the social worker
  3. Request for consultancy from the Substance Misuse Team
  4. Referral for targeted / specialist support

For the screening tool, referral pathway and the full protocol with more information about the outcomes of screening see the 'You May Also Like' section.


Contacting the Substance Misuse Service


The Service can be contacted as follows:

***Telephone Number required***
***Email required***
***Address required***
***Web address required***

Referrals to the service should only be made with the agreement of the young person. The Service is also able to provide advice and support to social workers around substance misuse.