3rd Space and Primary Prevention

Rutland Youth Coalition

May/June 2022

3rd spaces can have a direct impact on preventing substance use.

Many people are talking about “3rd Space” when discussing youth substance use prevention. 3rd spaces refer to the places where youth spend time outside of the home and school. Home is considered 1st space, school is the 2nd space, and all other locations are considered the 3rd space.



Research is finding that those 3rd spaces play an important role in shaping youth. As you can imagine, these spaces can have an array of impact depending on what they are doing and who they are with. Therefore, supporting these spaces with resources can have a direct impact on youth and their pathway through life.


According to Vermont Afterschool and years of international work, 3rd spaces can have a direct impact on preventing substance use among youth. Over a 20-year period of operation, Iceland decreased youth alcohol use from 42% to 7%.



Smoking and cannabis use also decreased drastically over the same period. They did this by collecting data and investing in their youth. For many years now countries all over the world have done this work with similar results.


The method seems simple, collect data from youth about their lives and behaviors. Then invest in 3rd spaces that provide staff and activities youth are interested in. Vermont Afterschool states, “Vermont students who participate in 19 hours of extracurricular activities each week are less likely to use alcohol, tobacco, or marijuana than those who do not participate in any activities”. To think that 2.5 hours a day of a positive extracurricular activity can decrease the onset of substance use in youth is profound. The most important aspect of this work is to make these spaces and activities available and open to all youth.


Making these activities and spaces open to youth no matter where they were born, where they live, how much money they have access to is the challenging part. If you are interested in learning more about how our community can decrease substance use among youth and invest in their future, please consider joining the Rutland Youth Coalition.