Young People and Drugs
Drugs – what every parent needs to know
We live in a world where drugs are unavoidable:
• 17% of young people identified themselves as being committed smokers.
• 35% of young people reported having their first full serve of alcohol by the age of 14.
• 21% of young people men and women aged 14-17 drink alcohol at short term risk of alcohol related harm–at least monthly.
• 17% of young people aged 16-24 reported using cannabis once a week or more.
We can’t ‘drug-proof’ our young people, but we can make it less likely that drugs will become a major issue in their lives.
It is important not to get too dramatic. Most young people do not use drugs, and most go on to live happy and fulfilling lives. Many of the strategies we have put in place in the past few years are working. Death rates of young people are falling. The rate of heroin overdose deaths has fallen. Fewer young people are smoking tobacco. However, we can always do better.
Firstly, it is important that school students have access to accurate information about drugs. Trying to scare them out of it doesn’t work. Telling them just to “say no” doesn’t work either.
No drug is instantly addictive but some drugs can be instantly fatal (whether taken in isolation or in combination with driving a vehicle).
Most of the problems for young people actually relate to legal rather than illegal drugs. Pain relievers are Australia’s most abused drugs
Types of drug using young people
Broadly speaking there are three main categories of drug using young people:
Experimenters: Many young people experiment with drugs but do not go on to become regular users. We need to ensure that if these young people do experiment they do so safely.
Socially disconnected young people: These young people see drugs as a way of fitting in and gaining friendships. In many ways, this is the most preventable group. By ensuring that each person in our school has a range of people to associate with, rely upon and talk to, we can lessen this group substantially.
Self-medicators: These young people with emotional difficulties such as depression use drugs as a way of treating their distress. We need to ensure that these young people get the professional help that they need.
What to look for
Throughout the later years of school, it is wise to keep asking yourself the following questions:
• When was the last time I had a good conversation with my child?
• Is he or she more secretive?
• Is she or he locked away in the bedroom more often?
• Does my child have access to money that I can’t explain?
• Has his or her appearance changed (looks tired, red or glazed eyes, sniffing as if he or she has a cold, restless, agitated or unusually irritable)?
• Do I know my child’s friends?
• Am I getting silent hang-ups when I answer the telephone?
• Is there any evidence of drug-using paraphernalia such as plastic bottles with holes in the side, pieces of garden hose, scales or spoons?
• Does my family have rituals (regular activities or events) that we do together?
• Are there alcohol-free family rituals?
• Does my family convey a message that misuse of substances is not acceptable?
Risk and Protective Factors
Risk factors in secondary schools:
• drug misusing peers (especially for girls)
• opportunities to use drugs
Note: Drug misusing teenagers tend to over-estimate the prevalence of drug use among young people.
Protective factors in secondary schools:
• connectedness with family and school, and a diversity of friends
• academic success
• social and resistance skills
How can we make drug misuse less likely?
Drug misuse decreases as connectedness to an adult increases. Stay involved in your child’s life.
Young people often act as if their parents are an unnecessary and embarrassing burden. Don’t fall for this act. They need you around more than they (or you) know.
Know their friends. Organise social functions; food is a good way to get to know teenagers.
If you are worried, talk to someone. Don’t be afraid to seek help. School can be a good place to start. Information on drugs can be obtained from:
Direct Line - 1800 888 236
DrugInfo Clearinghouse - 1300 858 584
Parentline - 132289
Family Drug Help - 1300 660 068
Be prepared to talk to your child about your concerns and persist until you feel reassured (not just until they say “it’s all right – don’t worry”). If you remain concerned, seek help. In addition to the above help lines, GPs, student welfare coordinators, drug and alcohol services and psychologists are also useful sources of assistance.
More info is available here: https://www.education.vic.gov.au/documents/school/teachers/health/parentsdrugscommon.pdf