Parents' guide to young people, drugs and alcohol
The first thing to remember is 'don't panic'. The word 'drugs'
brings a shiver of fear to most parents. You imagine your child
slumped in some seedy room injecting some substance or dead. Don't
over-react. One of the most important things to remember is that,
although illegal drugs are widely available, only a very small percentage
of young people end up as 'addicts' or compulsive users. You may
think that experimenting with cannabis is bound to lead them down
the path of being addicted to heroin, but this is not true.
- Adolescence is a confusing, conflicting time. A time where
young people begin to move away from their parents in their
transition to adulthood. Young people are caught between being
a child and becoming an adult, but don't fit into either category.
During this period your child moves from dependence to independence,
when they begin to find their own values, their personality
and set their goals. During adolescence the shift from you
being responsible for them, and them being responsible for
themselves begins, and you need to let them start taking responsibility
for their own actions. One of the most important things is
to try and remember what adolescence was like for you. Remember
your thoughts and feelings if you can; try to remember the
highs and the lows. Remember that you are not alone. Other
parents are thinking and feeling exactly the same way as you.
- Get informed
- De-mystify drugs to yourself and find out about what drugs
are called, the effects and the risks. Going through this
process with your child can be beneficial, so that you can
learn together. You can also see what information your child
already has, and if it's correct. Don't jump to conclusions
if your child knows more about drugs than you. This is quite
possible, and doesn't mean that they have been using drugs.
- Talk to them
- Talk openly about drugs with your child. Talking about drugs
will not encourage your son or daughter to use them. Discuss
openly the effects and the risks of drugs, discuss the illegal
nature of the drugs and what it would mean if your child got
caught. Discuss the law in relation to the impact on your
child, their potential police record and the impact this would
have on school, jobs and careers.
- Be supportive
- Encourage your child to discuss drugs with their friends,
and their experiences with you without judging and over-reacting.
It's natural for a parent to want to protect their child,
by trying to keep them away from friends, you believe to be
a bad influence. You cannot watch your child 24 hours a day,
so don't over-react, if they tell you, or if you find out
that some of their friends have tried illegal substances.
Discuss the risks and inform your child, to enable them to
make informed choices.
- Always try and keep the lines of communication open with
your child. If it comes to the crunch, your child must see
that you are there for them. If the police get involved, support
your child through the process, whilst appreciating the police
view point. Take a mediating role between your child and the
The health risks and effects of each drug are listed in the A -
Z of drugs. Additionally it is worth also pointing out the following:
- If you have not taken a particular drug before, you cannot be
sure of its effects.
- You can never be sure exactly what you are taking.
- You don't know what it is mixed with and how pure it is. It
is unlikely to be pure.
- Not knowing the strength of what you are taking can lead to
- It's very dangerous to mix drugs or to take them with alcohol.
- Injecting is very dangerous and can lead to infections, such
as HIV, Hepatitis B or C and damaged veins.
- One of the most important things to remember about illegal drugs
use is that those that use illegal drugs may fall into four categories.
- For the majority of young people who try illegal substances
(usually cannabis), they do it three or four times and stop.
- The next largest group of young people that use illegal
drugs are the 'recreational' or 'social' users. These young
people treat using drugs as part of their social life, like
going down the pub to have a drink or going out partying.
They do it with friends on a weekend and function relatively
normally during the week.
- The next group is where drug use becomes problematic. It
starts affecting social function and their personality, misusing
substances to the point of becoming compulsive users or 'addicts'.
Drugs start playing a more important role in their lives than
anything or anyone else.
- There is a fourth category, purely of those whose drug use
leads to injecting. There are many drug users that smoke crack
and heroin and use other substances, but don't move on to
injecting. The ones that move to injecting substances are
at the greatest risk. Injecting is the greatest abuser of
the body and can lead to serious injuries and infections.
This level of self-harm is very dangerous. There are, however,
ways of reducing harm to injecting users, by the use of needle
exchanges to get clean needles and seeking medical advise.
Where to get help
There is help for young people and parents in the county. If you
are worried about your child, speak to some one. Telephone 01235 468405 for general information.
You don't have to misuse alcohol or drugs yourself to suffer from
alcohol or drug misuse. If you are affected by someone else's substance
misuse and would like information or advice the information below
may be of help.
Oxfordshire DAAT has produced a Parents
and Carers guide to young people, drugs and alcohol.
Bicester Carer Support Service
25 The Causeway, Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX26 4FD
Telephone: 01869 249864
Weekly support group (Tuesday 6-8pm) aimed at parents, carers and
families of drug users hosted by Oxfordshire Mind.
SMART Families and Carers Service
The Old Music Hall, 106-108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JE
Telephone: 01865 403151
One to one and group support aimed at parents, families and carers
of drug users. Available at a number of venues countywide.
Organisations - Family and Carer