Drugs and Alcohol
Many parents or carers worry that their children may be smoking, drinking or using drugs. Stopping something from happening in the first place is better than trying to sort it out once it has already happened, so being a positive role model and not smoking, drinking to excess, or using drugs in front of your children is responsible parenting.
It is very important that children know about the risks of using drugs, alcohol and other substances (for example solvents).
The most common drug used by young people is alcohol. It is easy to get hold of and is often quite cheap. Sometimes adults don’t view alcohol use as seriously as other drugs. However, alcohol is increasingly contributing to the riser in violence, accidents and risk taking by young people, including risky sexual behaviour, leading to high numbers of teenage pregnancy.
How do I spot the signs?
There are many signs, which include:
- A young person who is panicky, tense or sleepy;
- Complaining of sickness;
- Not being able to concentrate;
- Lacking energy;
- Being depressed;
- Having skin problems;
- Being aggressive;
- Changes in relationships with family and friends;
- Changes in the way behaviour;
- Changes in how they are doing at school;
- Changes in how much money they have;
- Personal possessions ‘disappearing’ or being sold; or
- Becoming involved in criminal activity, for example, shoplifting.
However, we cannot automatically assume that a young person exhibiting one or more of the above behaviours is using drugs and alcohol – but we shouldn’t automatically rule it out either.
What can you do?
- Be a positive role model for your child - don’t let them see you smoke, drink to excess or take drugs.
- Discuss drug use early. Some parents or carers worry that doing this will make their child want to try alcohol or drugs, but this is not the case. Not talking about it will not protect your child – they need to know about the risks.
- Children will already be aware of substance misuse in some way before they leave primary school, and it is likely that at this early stage, children will be more open to discussion about the risks of drug misuse.
- You cannot be sure they will not try drugs but clear information and support it will help them to make informed choices.
- Seek professional advice if necessary.