This guideline covers how to reduce substance misuse among people under 25 who are vulnerable or disadvantaged. This includes problematic use of both legal and illegal drugs (including alcohol when used with other substances).

The aim is to encourage community-based activities to reduce the risk of misuse among this group.


This guideline includes recommendations on:

  • developing a local strategy
  • identifying people under 25 who are misusing, or at risk of misusing, substances
  • working with parents and carers
  • motivational interviews, group-based behavioural therapy and family-based, structured support

Who is it for?

  • People working in the NHS, local authorities, education, social care, the youth and criminal justice sectors and the voluntary and community sectors
  • Members of the public

Is this guideline up to date?

Next review: This guideline is being replaced by NICE’s guideline on drugs misuse prevention (expected to publish February 2017). 

Guideline development process

How we develop NICE guidelines

This guideline was previously called ‘interventions to reduce substance misuse among vulnerable young people’.



Your responsibility

The recommendations in this guideline represent the view of NICE, arrived at after careful consideration of the evidence available. When exercising their judgement, professionals are expected to take this guideline fully into account, alongside the individual needs, preferences and values of their patients or service users. The application of the recommendations in this guideline is not mandatory and the guideline does not override the responsibility of healthcare professionals to make decisions appropriate to the circumstances of the individual patient, in consultation with the patient and/or their carer or guardian.

Local commissioners and/or providers have a responsibility to enable the guideline to be applied when individual health professionals and their patients or service users wish to use it. They should do so in the context of local and national priorities for funding and developing services, and in light of their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, to advance equality of opportunity and to reduce health inequalities. Nothing in this guideline should be interpreted in a way that would be inconsistent with compliance with those duties.

Commissioners and providers have a responsibility to promote an environmentally sustainable health and care system and should assess and reduce the environmental impact of implementing NICE recommendations wherever possible.