University students are heading home, the school holidays are on the horizon and the party and festival season is warming up, which for parents of teenagers and young adults serves as a pertinent reminder that it is time to reiterate a few health and safety messages, not least with regard to drugs.
The most recent survey by the European Monitoring Centre for drugs and drug addiction revealed that of those young adults in the UK confirming personal drug usage, the 16-24 year old age group were shown to be the most prevalent users. Cannabis, cocaine, MDMA and amphetamines are the drugs of choice, with just 15 being the average age cited for first time usage of cannabis.
As alarming as these statistics may be it is an optimistic parent indeed that believes their child is immune. However confident we may be of our own offspring, the opinions and behaviour of others around them is beyond our control.
Within their secondary schooling years many teenagers will come across people either talking about or already using drugs. In 2016 a report published by NHS Digital showed that a staggering 24% of 11-15 year olds interviewed in secondary schools in England had taken drugs at some time.
Add to this the fact that they will become more social, attending parties and then festivals and the more likely it is that they will be exposed to it first-hand and with that comes the bete noire of parents worldwide – “peer pressure” to “give it a go”.
Experimentation is a fact of life. When raising our children how many times as parents do we say “How do you know you don’t like it (or you can’t do it) unless you try it?” The answer of course is all the time.
During the early years we introduce our children to new things every day. As they grow up and move through the tween years and into their teens, we encourage them to aim higher, to push their personal boundaries and to step outside their comfort zone – except of course when faced with drugs.
Teen drug abuse is dangerous. The teenage brain is precious. It is still developing up until the age of 25 and the use of drugs before this time can have serious long term behavioural and cognitive effects.
With this clean generation of teenagers and their emphasis on physical fitness and healthy eating and thereby moderate drinking and no smoking, it’s easy to overlook the threat of drugs. The unfortunate truth is that drugs are a very real issue just because they are so commonplace.
My eldest has been back from University for just one week and has already clocked up a couple of music festivals where according to him the amount of people plugging drugs were difficult to avoid. It takes steely conviction to keep saying “No thanks.” but that is exactly what they need to do.
As parents we all want to be confident that our teen has their head screwed on straight and won’t be the one swayed by the actions and pressure of others, but it is a worry and with drugs so readily available, it is certainly not the time as a parent to be complacent. More than ever we need to be more vigilant.
Neither is it a time to sugar coat the facts. It is best to be upfront about the dangers, to keep having meaningful and ongoing conversations and banging the eternal parental drum against using drugs. After all we are arguably the biggest influence in their lives .
Editors Note: Organisations offering information and advice on having “The Drugs Talk” –