Up To Speed on Drugs

Every parent worries about risky behaviours that their child might be exposed to as they reach their teenage and young adult years.  Often our teenagers are more aware - partly through education - of basic drugs and their effects, than their parents are.  By 16 years of age research tells us that 40 per cent will have tried illegal drugs, usually cannabis. 

So what should you know about drugs?  

Firstly, you should, as parents, be aware that it is illegal to allow people to use controlled substances such as cannabis, heroin or cocaine in your home.  Commonly used drugs are: heroin, cannabis, LSD, tobacco, tranquilisers, amphetamines, solvents, caffeine, cocaine, crack, magic mushrooms, alcohol, ecstasy, ketamine, legal highs, designer drugs, and date rape drugs. Solvents are another area to be aware of, as these are the substance most likely to cause death when first used.  

Young people will often start using drugs because of their short term effects or because their friends use them and they are curious. It can be a way of showing independence as they are easy to come by. Sometimes it will be to treat depression or hyperactivity. 

So what should you look out for? 

People who are using drugs show changes in appearance, friends, interests, eating and sleeping habits as well as changes of mood. There can be behavioural changes with a loss of concentration. School or work performance is reduced and apathy sets in. They may become secretive and dishonest. It is not easy as these are also part of normal teenage behaviour. Strange wrappers, pills and unusual smells might be indications, there are no easy answers. 

What can a parent do?

Teach children about risk and keeping safe even before they start at school. Give priority to being healthy and don’t smoke or drink to excess yourself .  Be ready to talk about drugs to your child so that when they do come across them they will be ready to make their own healthy choices. Be aware of friendship groups and discourage those which are not healthy.  Above all remain calm and level headed.  

The Department of Education recommends schools teach the following topics at each stage which might help you in talking to your child:

Key Stage 1 - About the role of drugs as medicines and that all household products, including medicines, can be harmful if not used properly.

Key Stage 2 - Which commonly available substances and drugs are legal and illegal, their effects and risks. That pressure to behave in an unacceptable or risky way can come from a variety of sources, including people they know, and how to ask for help and use basic techniques for resisting pressure to do wrong. The effects on the human body of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, and how these relate to their personal health.

Key Stage 3 - Facts and laws about drug, alcohol and tobacco use and misuse, and the personal and social consequences of misuse for themselves and others.

Key Stage 4 - The benefits and risks of health and lifestyle choices, including sexual activity and substance use and misuse, and the short and long-term consequences for the health and mental and emotional wellbeing of individuals, families and communities. The benefits and risks of the use of alcohol and medicines. Also the risks associated with tobacco, volatile substances and illegal drugs. 

Help is available from your GP and your child’s school which should have a pastoral care system, as well as: Drinkline (alcohol) 0800 917 8282, Quitline (smoking) 0800 00 22 00.

The following drugs helplines  are 24/7:

FRANK (formerly The National Drugs Helpline) 0800 77 66 00 (England only);  
KnowtheScore 0800 587 5879 (Scotland only),
DAN (Wales only)  0808 8082234  

You can also try Adfam (families of drug users) and Al-Anon (families of alcoholics) 020 7403 0888

Prayer

Be clear minded so that you can pray” - 1 Peter 4:7 

Lord God you are the strong rock we stand on, protecting us and our children.
Thank you Lord for our families may we have time to think and reflect,
Keep us strong in our selves respecting ourselves in all ways.
Help us all to follow your path in life for us.
And save us from worry and confusion.
Give our young people the understanding to know what is right.
Help us to be loving and forgiving when one of our little ones strays.
Help all parents to love with patience and forgiveness.