Understanding changes in substance use in the adolescent and young adult cancer population: a literature review
Evidence and practice    

Understanding changes in substance use in the adolescent and young adult cancer population: a literature review

Gerard Kenny Teenage and young adult cancer research nurse, University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW) specialised services, Bristol, England
Jamie Cargill Consultant nurse lead for teenage and young adult cancer team, UHBW, Bristol, England
Rachel Dommett Consultant oncologist and lead for teenage and young adult cancer, UHBW, Bristol, England
Divya Bassi Late effects lead, UHBW, Bristol, England
Megan Willsher Specialist nurse teenage and young adult cancer, Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Gloucester, England
Laura Baker Clinical psychologist, UHBW, Bristol, England
Elizabeth Allison Clinical nurse specialist germ cell and sarcoma, UHBW, Bristol, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To understand why adolescents and young adults with cancer engage in risk-taking behaviours involving substance use

  • To be aware of the evolution of substance use, driven by new psychoactive substances and nitrous oxide

  • To identify that nurses require support to address the risk of substance use among adolescents and young adults with cancer

The nature of the risks involved in adolescents and young adults’ substance use has evolved considerably in the 21st century. While there has been a decline in the use of some substances such as alcohol, and changes in how substances such as nicotine and cannabis are consumed, the overall increase in substance use in this population has been driven by new psychoactive substances and nitrous oxide (laughing gas). However, adolescents and young adults with cancer are often reluctant to discuss their substance use with healthcare professionals, who often lack the knowledge, skills and time to engage with this complex and continually changing area.

The authors undertook a narrative literature review on risk-taking behaviour involving substance use in adolescents and young adults, contextualising the main themes to adolescents and young adults with cancer. Healthcare professionals working with adolescents and young adults with cancer require improved evidence to understand the effect of substance use on treatment regimens, adherence to cancer therapy and the consequences for late effects. There is also a need for a wider appreciation of the effect that family, peers and social setting have on the nature and expression of substance use in this population.

Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2021.e1787

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Correspondence

Gerard.Kenny@uhbw.nhs.uk

Conflict of interest

None declared

Kenny G, Cargill J, Dommett R et al (2021) Understanding changes in substance use in the adolescent and young adult cancer population: a literature review. Cancer Nursing Practice. doi: 10.7748/cnp.2021.e1787

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the support of David Rea and the South West Clinical Research Network in supporting the teenage cancer research nurse role, and in the development of this article

Published online: 21 September 2021

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