Brady, Louca-Mai, Templeton, Lorna, Toner, Paul, Watson, Judith, Evans, David, Percy-Smith, Barry and Coppello, Alex (2018) Involving young people in drug and alcohol research. Drugs and Alcohol Today, 18 (1). pp. 28-38. ISSN 1745-9265

Purpose: Young people’s involvement should lead to research, and ultimately services, that better reflect young people’s priorities and concerns. Young people with a history of treatment for substance misuse were actively involved in the Youth Social Behaviour and Network Therapy (Y-SBNT) study. This paper explores the impact of that involvement on the study and our understanding of
involving young people in drug and alcohol research.

Methods: The initial plan was to form a young people’s advisory group, but when this proved problematic the study explored alternative approaches in c collaboration with researchers and young people.

Findings: Input from young people informed key elements of the intervention and research process. Furthermore their involvement needed to be dynamic and flexible, with sensitive handling of difficult personal experiences. Engagement with services was crucial both in recruiting young people and supporting their ongoing engagement.

Implications: The dominant discourses and cultures of health services and research (including interpretations of participation in public involvement) often do not sit easily with co-production and young people-centred involvement. There is a need to consider and document how approaches may facilitate exclusion or inclusion of young people in substance use research and more widely. Young people should be involved in influencing how they participate in drug and alcohol research, as well as having the right to choose whether or not they are involved.

Originality/value: The outcomes of this work contributed to innovative thinking and practice and the development of a more flexible and young people centred model for involvement.

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