Monday, August 13, 2007

Why Parents Worry About Drugs

When parents ask their children if they take drugs, they're looking for one answer - NO. Some parents don't even get as far as asking. They're not prepared to have any kind of discussion about drugs, except possibly to condemn them out of hand. This is a pity because there could well be a time when you need to talk about drugs to your parents, and not just because they've found out that you've been taking them. It may be that a friend has been taking drugs and you're worried about her health; or another friend may have been caught with drugs at home or at school and you're frightened about what may happen to him.

Take the initiative

Drugs may be the last thing you want to talk about with your parents, especially if it means admitting that you've taken them yourself. But for your sake and theirs, it's a good idea to try to take the initiative in starting a dialogue with them about drugs before there's a crisis. Your parents are concerned about your welfare so tell them what you know. Many parents only know scare stories about widely publicized drug-related deaths and jump to the conclusion that so-called soft drugs inevitably lead to hard drugs or believe that all illicit drugs are more harmful than tobacco and alcohol.

Parents worry about drugs for all sorts of reasons:

  • they fear for your safety and health
  • they fear legal repercussions
  • they are prejudiced
  • their view is distorted by media reporting
  • their moral and religious beliefs.

If your parents are very rigid in their thinking, you may feel inclined to abandon attempts at reasonable discussion and honest behaviour. Try to resist this because you'll both lose out in the long run.

Educate your parents

Some adults are probably as confused and ill-informed as some young people.

  • Show your parents the drugs education material you get from school.
  • Show them books about drugs (including this one).
  • Give them leaflets about drugs from nationally recognized agencies such as the Health Education Authority.

If you've taken drugs

Let's face it, even if you've discussed drugs in a general way in your family, all parents are going to be alarmed if they find out that you've actually used an illegal drug - and some will be upset if they find out that you've been smoking or drinking, especially if you're under-age. How your parents feel generally about drugs will inevitably colour their reaction. You can't blame them - parents always worry about their children, even when the children are grown up and have left home. Parenthood is a lifelong commitment! Try to put yourself in their position and think about how you'd react in a similar situation.

The strict approach doesn't work.

Being really strict simply means people go to greater lengths to conceal what they're doing. It's human nature - anything that's forbidden is immediately attractive.

By sitting down with your parents and having a sensible discussion about drugs, you may prevent unnecessary worry, misunderstandings and heartache.


If parents over-react to you taking drugs

If your parents are badly informed or overbearing, you might expect:

Shock or anger "That's it, you've blown it this time!"
Over-reaction "You'll become an addict!" "You could overdose and die!"

Disbelief "What do you think you're doing?"
Guilt and shame "Where did we go wrong?" "What if the neighbours find out?"

Self-pity "How could you do this to me?"

Rows and ultimatums "No child of mine..." "While you live in my house..." "I'm stopping your allowance now!" "We're going straight to the police."

Abuse "You're useless, worthless." "That's it - you'll never get anywhere now."

Denial or an attempt to blame someone else "Not my daughter - I expect your friend made you do it."; "I don't want to listen to any more of this."

What you can do

Try to understand why your parents are upset. Put yourself in their position. Try to explain your reasons. Remember, their reaction is probably mainly due to fear and guilt - and they'll need help coming to terms with the situation too.

  • If they can't understand or refuse to listen, go to another sympathetic adult - a teacher, youth worker, older brother or sister, friend's parent, another relative, your GP, or a drugs counsellor - to try to get them to intercede on your behalf.
  • Storming out of the house and threatening never to return doesn't help because it tends to harden attitudes, but if you think it would help everyone to have a breather from the conflict, find out if you can go and stay with someone close by for a few days to clear the air.

How concerned parents might react to you taking drugs
If your parents can talk to you about controversial subjects, you might expect:

Concern "Do you really know what you're taking?" "You would let me know if you get a bad reaction, wouldn't you?" "All we ask is that you're careful." "Why do you feel you need to take drugs?"

Disappointment "Well I hoped I'd never have to face this." "Well I can't say I'm happy about it."

Fairness "I'm concerned about it, but if you asked for it, I can't blame your friend for giving it to you."

Questioning "Well you've made this decision, but have you thought about the consequences?" "Do you really understand what could happen if something goes wrong?" "You do realize that it's illegal?"

Help "You can rely on us if you need help." "If there's a problem, please come to me first." "Don't feel you have to hide anything if you're in trouble."

If your parents can talk to you about drugs like this, you can all continue to be friends and be open, sensible and honest. Then perhaps you can make certain promises that will greatly allay their fears. You might promise to:

  • find out the truth about drugs
  • only take drugs when you're with good friends
  • be careful with drugs
  • never mix them, even with alcohol
  • know what to do in an emergency
  • understand the legal implications.

In return, get your parents to agree that if you find out the difference between the myths and realities of drugs they will too.

If you've left home

Keep phoning your mum and dad even if they put the phone down on you - do it for yourself not them - you'll feel better if you do. If you really don't want to stay directly in touch with your parents, stay in contact with someone in the family or a friend, so that at least your parents know you're all right. If you really don't know what to do, try phoning the Citizens Advice Bureau or the National Drugs Helpline, Release, Kidscape or even the Samaritans. All these numbers are in "Useful Addresses".

However upset or angry your parents may seem, underneath it all they're almost certainly worrying about your welfare.


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