What should I do if I think my child is taking drugs?
Well the one of the first things to say is don’t panic! That is not meant to sound patronising but it is easy to do. Whether we approve or not, experimental drug use has been part of the teenage experience since the sixties.
Are you sure?
Oh, come on! I don’t know anyone who has never smoked a joint except my father, and he is eighty years old! Trying drugs or alcohol, just to see what it is like, is a part of growing up.
So what should I do?
Well there are two important questions to ask your child, the first of which is ‘what are you taking?’
What happens if they won’t tell me?
I would suggest the challenge lies in how you ask the question. While it is not down to me to tell anyone how to bring up their child, if it were my daughter, I would explain that I was worried, not because she was necessarily doing anything wrong, but because it was potentially dangerous.
Then what would you do?
Well, I would suggest that we sat down and found out a little bit more about the drug. We might research it on the internet, and see what risks were involved with the use of that particular substance.
I would want to discuss the fact that there is no such thing as safe drug use, and while some substances are clearly riskier than others, there are dangers associated with everything, from cannabis through heroin, via Mephedrone.
Would you tell her off because it’s illegal to take drugs?
Personally no, but I would talk to her about what it might feel like to be arrested and have to go to court, and some of the problems having a criminal record for possession of drugs might cause. I would point out that she might never be able to go shopping in New York for example, because the American authorities can refuse you permission to enter the country if you have a criminal record for the possession of drugs.
You said there were two questions. What was the other one?
How often are you using drugs? It might be that she tried a joint at a party, in which case there is no need to panic. On the other hand, it might have been going on for a while and I might want to discuss the reasons behind it. Perhaps it is peer group pressure because all of her friends are doing it.
And if after that you were still worried?
Then we would be talking about getting some professional advice and help. I might suggest that we talk to her friends, or go and see the G.P. and have a chat with him. I would discuss with her all of the potential options available and try to find out which one she thinks is best. There are also specialist treatment providers for young people and it might be that we go to discuss things with her.
Would you threaten to tell the police?
Personally no, and certainly not straight away. I wouldn’t want to run the risk of her being charged with a criminal offence and ending up in court unnecessarily. I would look to seek the appropriate advice and support to deal with the problem, rather than take a punitive approach. Besides, it never worked with me!