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Drugs and Alcohol

drugs and alcohol abuse

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.

Although drugs are more common among children and young people than ever before, addiction, crime and death are not as usual as the stories in the newspapers or on TV can lead us to believe.

It is very important that children know about the risks of using drugs, alcohol and volatile substances (for example solvents).

Did you know…?

  • 1 in 12 twelve year-olds, and 1 in 3 fourteen-year-olds have tried drugs.
  • By the time they reach sixteen years of age, 2 in every 5 young people will have tried one type of drug or a mixture of drugs.
  • These figures apply across all ethnic groups.
  • The number of girls who are taking drugs is rising rapidly, but currently there are more male drug users than female drug users.

Alcohol use
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 a contributory factor in incidence of violence, accidents and risk taking by young people, including risky sexual behaviour, leading to high numbers of teenage pregnancy. 

Did you know…?

  • More young people have problems through drinking too much than through drug use.
  • 1,000 children under the age of fifteen have to go to hospital each year with severe alcohol poisoning.
  • Buying alcohol on behalf of someone under the age of 18 is an offence.

Why do young people use drugs and alcohol?

  • To find out about them;
  • To relax; to escape reality;
  • To cope with difficult situations or feelings;
  • Because they enjoy them;
  • Because their friends do it;
  • Because they are pressured into it by their friends and don't want to be seen to be different.

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.

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