How can I stop my child from taking drugs?
As a parent you have a huge influence on the behaviour of your children. Be aware of your influence as a role-model. How do you use alcohol? Do you smoke? Children learn from the adults around them. What have they learnt from you?
Would learning about drugs help me keep my children drug free?
Most people are not well informed about drugs. This is particularly true of parents. You should aim to learn as much as you can about the subject. This will make it easier to talk about drugs with your children.
When should I first talk to my children about drugs?
Talk to your children about drugs from an early age. Don't make a big deal about it though. The best approach is to let the topic come up "naturally". Wait for a relevant television item, newspaper article or a discussion about a movie and bring up the subject of drugs then.
How should I approach talking to my children about drugs?
Good communication is vital. It must be honest, regular and open. Listen carefully to your children's opinions, and try not to be judgmental. Avoid lecturing. This advice applies to other issues besides drugs.
Does the home environment make a difference to drug use?
Show you love your children by spending time with them and by making them feel valued. Let them know you are proud of them and do this often. Children with a high self-esteem find it easier to resist pressure to use drugs.
How do I know my child is experimenting with or using drugs?
Unless you actually discover your child using drugs, or they tell you about their drug use, you can't be sure that they are using drugs. Listed below are many physical and behavioural signs of drug use. If your child exhibits a number of these signs then there may be a chance they are using drugs.
Physical Signs of Drug Use
- Eyes: Cannabis, in particular, can cause the eyes to become reddened, watery and puffy. Dilated or pinpoint pupils.
- Smell: Cannabis and alcohol both have distinctive smells. Cannabis smoke has a strong sweet smell which is very different from tobacco smoke.
- Slurred and slow speech.
- Poor coordination- staggering or stumbling.
- Lack of pride in personal appearance and poor hygiene.
- Chronic coughing
- Changes in appetite.
- Sudden change in weight.
- Lack of energy and general lethargy.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
- Occasional memory loss.
Behavioural Signs of Drug Use
- Decrease in sport or hobby involvement.
- Mood swings and increasingly withdrawn from family and some friends.
- Unusual or suspicious requests for money.
- Drop in school grades and homework not done.
- Different friends appear on the scene combined with a reluctance to introduce these friends.
- Frequent unexplained phone calls.
- More irritable.
- Less affectionate.
- Not worried about the consequences of their actions.
- Reluctance to do any household chores.
- Persistent lying, evasion or secretive behaviour.
- Cash or valuable items going missing.
- A complete change in appearance.
- Late coming home at night and late getting ready for school.
- Sleeping in late.
- Becomes argumentative or hostile when the negative effects of drug use are discussed.
- Blames other people for their behaviour e.g. parents, teachers, and siblings.
- Using incense or air fresheners in room.
What are depressants?
Depressants include alcohol, cannabis, heroin, morphine, solvents, GHB, sleeping pills and painkillers. They tend to depress the central nervous system causing a lowering of heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate. They tend to make the user feel relaxed and drowsy, slur speech and dull pain. High doses may depress the functioning of the brain to such an extent that breathing stops. They are potentially very addictive.
What are stimulants?
Stimulants are nicotine, caffeine, cocaine, ecstasy, amphetamine and amyl nitrite. Stimulants tend to cause a sense of energy, alertness, talkativeness and wellbeing. They stimulate the central nervous system causing increases in heart rate and blood pressure. High doses can be dangerous and even fatal. Like depressants, stimulants can be very addictive.
What are hallucinogens?
Some hallucinogens are LSD, magic mushrooms, datura, ketamine, DXM, PCP. These drugs tend to change the way we see, hear and feel things (i.e. hallucinations). The effects can be extremely variable and depend on many factors. Some of these drugs can be very dangerous, either directly or by causing accidents.
What are steroids and sports drugs?
Some steroids and sports drugs are anabolic steroids, growth hormone, testosterone, beta-2 agonists, diuretics and erythropoietin (EPO). These drugs are used by athletes and other people to improve their performance and/or their appearance. They usually aid in either increasing muscle mass or improving oxygen transport in the body. Many of these drugs have serious side effects and can be dangerous, especially for young people.
Why do the short-term effects of drugs vary so much?
The short term effects of a drug can vary tremendously depending on factors such as:
- The potency of the drug
- How the drug is taken
- The circumstances in which the drug is taken
- The mental state of the person using the drug
- The individual's history of drug taking
- Whether other drugs are also used
- Individual physiology
Is it possible to build up a tolerance to drug use?
If regular use of a drug continues, the body adapts to the presence of the drug. Consequently the user has to take a higher dose of the drug to feel the desired effect. This is referred to as "tolerance". Over time, addicts have to take very high doses just to feel normal. They no longer get the "rush" they experienced in the early stages of their drug use.
A normal dose of heroin or morphine for a long-term addict may be enough to kill a first time user. Similarly an alcoholic may be able to drink a whole bottle of spirits while a light drinker would be very sick if they drank this amount.
How does taking drugs during pregnancy affect the baby?
Many drugs can harm the developing foetus. The best advice is to avoid drugs during pregnancy.
Can you drink alcohol while you are pregnant?
Alcohol is particularly dangerous as even a single heavy drinking session creates the potential for damage to the developing foetus. This is particularly true in the early stages of pregnancy (when the woman may not even know she is pregnant). It is prudent not to consume large amounts of alcohol if trying to conceive and while pregnant or breast-feeding.
Should you smoke during pregnancy?
Smoking cigarettes during pregnancy may result in foetal hypoxia (lack of oxygen), low birth weight babies and miscarriages. These babies have a tough start in life as they have to undergo nicotine withdrawal as soon as they are born. They also have a far greater chance of developing asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory disorders in early childhood.
What if I mix drugs?
Taking two or more different drugs in the same session can be dangerous as the effects of each drug can combine to be far more intense than if each drug was taken in isolation. Alcohol mixed with other drugs is common and can be hazardous.
Are illegal drugs always what they are meant to be?
Illegal drugs are notorious for being contaminated with other drugs. Ecstasy tablets for example often contain other drugs such as ketamine or methadone. Some pills sold as "ecstasy" contain no ecstasy at all.
Why can't I share a needle with other drug users?
If drugs are injected there is a risk of needle contamination. HIV and hepatitis can be transmitted if needles are shared.
Apart from the damage it does to my body is there any other reason not to do drugs?
Often it is not the toxic effect of a drug that causes direct harm to the user. More often accidents and death are caused by high-risk behaviour, poor coordination and poor judgment while under the influence of the drug. Falls, car accidents, fights and drowning are the most common.
As a parent/teacher how should I behave if I find someone has been taking drugs?
Intervention the "Don'ts":
- Try to diagnose - You're not a doctor.
- Overstate or accuse - You're not a lawyer
- Moralise or chastise - You're not a preacher
- Argue or use force - You're not an enforcer
- Call the student a drug user, 'druggie' or 'alcoholic'
- Use emotive words/expressions e.g. "off your face"
- Create mixed messages by dithering.
Who can I contact for help?
Alcohol & Drug Helpline
0800 787 797 New Zealand only
(09) 631 0624 New Zealand only
BBC World Service - Drugs
BBC World Service - Drug Trade
NIDA - National Institute on Drug Abuse
NZ Drug Foundation
Australian Drug Foundation