Look what’s coming over the hill: DAST-10 problem severity among non treatment seeking young people

Iain McPhee*, Barry Sheridan, Andrew Horne, Steph Keenan, Fiona Houston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Downloads (Pure)


This study aims to provide data on substance use amongst young people in Scotland to inform policy and practice for an age group who generally do not access specialist alcohol and drug services. The main objectives of the study were to assess the problem severity scores of items from a modified version of the DAST-10 brief screening instrument among respondents; examine correlations between a range of variables in relation to DAST-10 problem severity scores; and explore respondent knowledge of how and where to seek help.

A fixed quantitative design methodology recruited a non-probability sample of 4,501 respondents from an online survey made available by “We are With you” Scotland.

The survey was ethically approved by the School of Education and Social Sciences, University of the West of Scotland. It consisted of 32 questions exploring substances used within the past 12 months, and 12 weeks, and included the DAST-10. We further explored help seeking, and knowledge of support available to respondents.

Substance use patterns were markedly different from people currently known to specialist alcohol and drug services. Over half of respondents were under 25, and 62% report being employed. The most commonly used substances were cannabis and cocaine. One third of respondents recorded substantial or severe problem severity scores and reside in Scottish Local Authorities with high concentrations of socio-economic inequality.

Secure accommodation, stable relationships and being employed are protective factors in relation to reported negative health consequences associated with problem substance use.

Just under one third (27%) of respondents report knowing where to seek help for substance use problems; however, they are unwilling to attend existing specialist alcohol and drug services.

Research limitations/implications
A non-probability sample of the Scottish population has a potential for response bias due to how and what way the survey was made available to respondents. It is acknowledged that while useful as a method of generating drug use data, there are limitations in how recently the substance use occurred, and in relation to the types of substances reported (cannabis, cocaine and ecstasy).

Practical implications
The study provides data to inform wider public health measures in relation to accessing support and addressing societal discrimination associated with the use of substances. The study provides data on service design for young people who do not access specialist alcohol and drug services.

Social implications
The study informs substance use policy in the Scottish context in relation to a population of young people who use licit and illicit substances. Data contributes to evidence supporting correlations between problematic substance use and socio-economic inequality. Data indicates that existing specialist services require redesign.

The study is the first to be conducted within a Scottish context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-35
Number of pages14
JournalDrugs and Alcohol Today
Issue number1
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 5 Aug 2022


  • Scotland
  • prevention
  • survey
  • substance use
  • young people
  • DAST-10


Dive into the research topics of 'Look what’s coming over the hill: DAST-10 problem severity among non treatment seeking young people'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this