According to the World Health Organization (WHO, 2010), substance
abuse is a physiological, behavioral and cognitive concern in which the use of
alcohol or drugs takes on a high priority than behaviours that used to be of great
value. In Norfolk out of 1000 under 18 year old survey participants, 19%
have tried cannabis and one in four think cannabis can be used safely. 54% of
participants that drink every week and 34% who smoke tobacco every week have
tried cannabis, compared to 18% who only drink occasionally and 1% who have
never smoked. (Gummerson et al, 2012) These statistics similarly compare to a
national study by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2009). This correlation is
not so alarming seeing as smoking is the primary way to take cannabis however,
it does highlight the need once a problem with one substance is notified to
explore the use of other substances and educate youths. Statistics also show
that effective education has declined and needs to improve among the under
18’s. Demonstrated in the tellus survey (2009). In 2009 it showed that 5% of
under 18’s in Norfolk had used cannabis. Increasing in 2011, where 9% had
smoked cannabis in the past month. (Gummerson et al, 2012) Therefore, adolescents
that engage in cannabis abuse may not only be facing addiction to the drug
itself but a problem in their holistic education. (Gummerson, Wheeler and
Palmer, 2012).  Due to this worrying statistic and the need to
educate holistically, Her Majesty’s Government (2017) has produced a new substance
abuse structure and has given public health grants to countrywide and local
schemes. An example of one countrywide scheme is the Life Chances Fund, which
aims to enhance people’s lives by increasing social innovation for cannabis
users. An example of a local authority is the youth service ‘Unity’ by The
Matthew Project (2017), which targets both treatment and prevention. The
Matthew Project is a Norfolk based service, which offers support and guidance
for substance abuse to under 19 year olds. Professionals include social
workers, nurses, councillors and other practitioners, whom are available for
guidance in a wide range of ways and settings. With a wide range of
professionals, young cannabis users can be supported holistically. The Matthew
Project just like many other projects is free. Therefore, as no single treatment
is the key for a cure, users can be educated repeatedly without financial
burdens. Sadly, there is no easy remedy for such a complicated psychological
condition. Other services include the National Treatment Agency (NTA) for Substance Misuse (2017). NTA gathers
educational resources together such as the Department for Children, Schools and
Families (DCSF) and collectively and interprofessionally ensure young
people that are vulnerable and are experiencing a range of personal issues are
treated universally. Therefore, a wider range of a child’s agenda managed. Like other
county-based projects a lot of young people that use cannabis are identified to
these projects through families, friends and health care professionals such as
GP’s or paramedics. Identifying people in high-risk groups is another possible
way for paramedics to help promote healthy living. In this circumstance young
cannabis users can be quickly and easily identified before it’s too late for them to access the care they
require. A study by Turner et al (2014) reviewed at-risk cannabis groups and outlined a protocol for screening,
identifying, and managing the abuse. It found that there was no disadvantage
for screening everyone or solely at risk patients, as these patients can then
be referred to specialists without neglecting a patient of the care needed. In
the future, to enhance the ambulance service regular at risk screening therefore could be completed.
One disadvantage of this politically would be that paramedics are stigmatising
at risk groups.

A stigma defined by WHO (2008), is a
distinguishing mark establishing isolation between the person involved and others
attributing negative characteristics to this person. It is a huge cause of
discrimination and a lot of the time leads to social exclusion. People stigmatise young cannabis
users by thinking that they are lazy, are criminals and are not responsible for
playing an active role in society. (Brown, 2015) Shown
in a study by Johns
Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (2014). Out of 709 participants, only
22% would be willing to work with someone who is addicted to taking a substance
and 3 in 10 participants think that drug and mental health illnesses are
permanent within a person. Although this study has a low validity due to the
number of participants, the low percentage of participants not willing to work with
substance users indicates a wider socio cultural issue in society and the need
for wide ranges of education on this matter. A study conducted in Canterbury in
1980 shows stigma assumed by healthcare professionals. A questionnaire was sent
to different types of healthcare workers within a hospital asking for their
tolerance on substance users. It shows that doctors had the lowest tolerance
and health care assistance the highest. However, it also showed that
professionals whom specialised in substance abuse had a more optimistic
approach due to the fact that they have access to the independent variables and
better education for this group in society. Healthcare professionals who
portray stigmas describe a cultural manner in which substance users are
undervalued and excluded due to the fact that they have a discredited health
illness. (Cartwright, 1980) Worryingly this contributes to the abuse of human rights
and the disregard to that medical professionals governing body. In 2007, a revised Health and
Care Professions Council (HCPC) Standards of Proficiency
for paramedics was produced, which all paramedics have to adhere to. It states that a paramedic must ‘understand the need to respect and uphold the rights, dignity,
values, and autonomy of service users including their role in the diagnostic
and therapeutic process in maintaining health and wellbeing and to be able to practise in a non-discriminatory
manner.’ (HCPC,
2007)  In conclusion professional organisations and
government public initiatives must gain better resources to prevent and manage
health-related stigma for a nondiscriminatory National Health Service (NHS). 

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