At-risk Youth and Newer Users

PI: Patricia Conrod (University of Montreal, QC) & Sherry Stewart (Dalhousie University, NS)

Leadership Group: Danya Fast & Rod Knight (BCCSU, BC); Joanna Henderson (CAMH, ON); Rebecca Haines-Saah (University of Calgary, AB)

 The purpose of this thematic area is to provide additional evidence and develop guidance for the treatment of opioid use disorder among youth and young adults, and help scale-up interventions for youth and young adults to address the opioid emergency. To do so, the leadership group proposes the following activities:

Scoping Review

There is a need to identify and synthesize the existing literature to better understand the nature of the opioid crisis amongst at-risk youth and newer users, and the existing interventions and OUD treatment for youth and young adults. A scoping review of academic and grey literature will be undertaken to address this aim. Objectives include:

  • Identify the characteristics of the issue, including key at-risk populations and summarize promising evidence-based intervention strategies for reducing prevalence, transition to misuse, and reducing harm to young people,
  • Serve as a resource and tool for activities 3 and 4 (see below)

 Critical Gap Analysis

Current services available for opioid dependent youth, at-risk youth, and family support will be documented and described in order to evaluate change over time and to present a variety of successful models. Objectives include:

  • Identify existing service providers across Canada, characterize service delivery gaps for youth and young adults across Canada, identify existing strategies/ interventions for opioid dependent youth and at-risk youth, develop a baseline report and disseminate to key stakeholders and policymakers in activity 5 (see below)

Youth Focus Groups

In preparation for a national youth summit (activity 4), youth focus groups will be conducted across each CRISM node. The topic of the focus groups as well as the youth invited will depend on the needs and priorities of each setting in addressing the opioid crisis. This may include: street-entrenched youth; Indigenous youth; youth experimenting with opioids; and youth with family or siblings engaged in opioid use. Objectives include:

  • For each youth population, describe the gaps and needs of their population, the services available or accessed, barriers and facilitators of current services and interventions, initiation experience/ first contact with opioids, harm reduction practices, strategies for prevention, harms experienced, and drivers of use,
  • Characterize service delivery gaps for specific youth populations,
  • Identify successful strategies/ interventions for specific youth populations,
  • Serve as a resource and tool for activities 3 and 4 (see below)

Youth Engagement: Youth Summits and Capacity Building

Individual one-day youth summits will be organized at each of the CRISM network nodes. Youth delegates will listen to different presentations on the scientific knowledge available on the current health threat in Canada (as identified from activity 1), and the various evidence-based intervention approaches that hold promise (as identified from activities 2-3). They will also participate as presenters on their perspectives and needs on 3-4 specific categories of interventions. Youth will then be supported to develop a set of youth-focused guiding principles to inform interventions targeting at-risk youth. These principles will inform the process of developing and/or evaluating interventions in activity 5. There will be continued youth engagement during the project including: interactive dissemination of Summit findings, local node capacity building activities, participation in an advisory committee, and a follow up Youth Summit in year 4.

Knowledge Mobilization and Translation

The resources developed in activities 1-4 described above will be disseminated to service providers and key stakeholders to advocate for improvement of youth-specific intervention strategies and youth-specific services across Canada.