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There are few issues that fill parents with as much fear as alcohol and drugs.

Why teenagers try alcohol and drugs

This is a time when teenagers are experimenting and trying out all kinds of new experiences. Experimentation helps them to develop a greater sense of themselves as independent individuals in the world. It might be because there’s a strong urge to become part of ‘the group’, it might also help them to deal with emotional problems or, it could be a combination of reasons, eg curiosity, boredom, attempting to deal with traumatic or upsetting memories or through following the example of friends or family.

Different kinds of drugs

Alcohol: alcohol is absorbed directly into the blood stream from the stomach and intestines, so its effects can be experienced relatively quickly. How much an individual is affected depends on a range of factors.


Cannabis: Cannabis is a depressant and is manufactured in a different number of forms; the most common being marijuana, hash and hash oil. The immediate effects of cannabis will vary according to dose, body size, psychological state of an individual, the form of cannabis being used, the concentration of THC (the primary active ingredient).


Inhalants: substances in this category include petrol, solvents, deodorants, insect sprays, paint glue, lighter fluid and other forms of gas. The long-term effects of inhalants are very serious and include damage to the brain, damage to the respiratory system, decreased attention, decreased ability to learn, decreased co-ordination and violent unpredictable behavior. Death can also result.


Amphetamines: amphetamines are a collection of drugs commonly known as ‘speed’. They are usually bought in the form of yellow or white powder, or sometimes a liquid. Immediate effects include an increase in confidence energy and alertness, hyperactivity, talkativeness and an ability to stay wake all night. A person can also feel anxious, irritable, paranoid and very panicky, hostile aggressive and a few may experience mark mental disturbance. Death can also result.


Ecstasy: ecstasy is a stimulant and is similar to amphetamines and hallucinogens and is usually sold as small or yellow tablets that are swallowed. The immediate effects include sensations of floating, intense confidence, well-being and closeness to others. Higher dose can cause hallucinations. Other effects include dehydration, nausea, increased blood pressure, anxiety and paranoia.


There are typical warning signs e.g., mood swings, red eyes, sleep disturbances and bad skin. These are also typical of adolescence. The only sure sign is physical evidence such as bottles of alcohol or packets of drugs. If your teenager is spending a great deal of money without anything obvious to show for it, starting to steal money or sell their own or others property, you may pay to be suspicious.

What should I do if I think my Teenager Could Have Problems:

Don’t panic
Don’t come on strong and accuse
Before broaching the subject, choose your moment carefully
Avoid accusation and criticism
Ask about both the good and not so good things about alcohol and drugs
If useful, ask if they would like information on the effects of using alcohol and drugs
Above all, try and keep the lines of communication open
Make sure you are informed
Think through the issue yourself first
Model and coach the behaviours you want
Talk with your teenager


What to do if they deny it’s a problem?

Once again don’t panic, get angry or resort to lectures or threats! Show your teenager you only want to help her or him and that you are always prepared to listen or engage In discussion. Most communities have a different number of agencies which provide services to families experiencing problems with drugs or alcohol abuse. Contact your Citizens Advice Bureau or hospital. It can also be useful to see a counselor specializing in these problems, especially if your teenager will agree to join you. Get to know your teenager’s friends parents. Remember parents have rights too, that is, the right to not have alcohol and or drugs in your house if you choose. Let your kids know this is a bottom line and that they are expected to respect it. Otherwise, there will be consequence which could involve an earlier curfew, reduce phone privileges or ‘grounding’.

If you have a serious concern, seek professional help. There is no shame in asking for information and there are a number of agencies are there to help.


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