Did you know?
87% of teenagers think that their parents are credible sources of information about illegal drugs, according to a study by Health Canada. As a parent, you can make a big difference…
The following information was taken from the pamphlet Kids and drugs: A parent's guide to prevention, as well as the Government of Canada National Anti-Drug Strategy.
Parents are their children’s strongest role model and greatest influence. Your children will eventually adopt many of your values and types of behaviour, just as you have been influenced by your parents. Your children notice and respond to the way you deal with problems, express feelings and celebrate special occasions. As a parent, it is impossible to not model. Your children will see your example —positive or negative— as a pattern for the way life is to be lived. Families are both a very important protective factor and risk factor influencing drug use problems among youth. In other words, what you do—or do not do—has a big impact on your child’s decisions about using or not using drugs.
There are many things that parents can do to help their children grow, develop in positive ways and avoid abusing drugs. Research in the area of positive youth development reinforces the common-sense idea that if parents, schools and communities really focus efforts on supporting the healthy growth and development of children, we will naturally prevent a range of problems (including substance abuse) in the process. Building on a child’s strengths is a key focus. The following describes some ways that parents can build developmental assets in their children and is adapted from the work of the Search Institute:
Listening in a way that really “hears” what your children are saying and talking to them about your views and experience are two of the best things you can do to help your children develop self-esteem and have positive values. Your children will respond to your efforts to connect with them if you keep at it and show that it really matters to you. So do it often, openly and throughout their growing-up years.
Create an environment for communicating easily with your children by:
Children need to know that their parents are going to listen and not hit the roof if a problem arises. They are much less likely to open up and seek help and advice if they expect you to react with anger or panic.
In talking to your children about drugs, it is important to acknowledge that people who use drugs do so for a reason. Drugs usually serve a purpose or meet a need for people, at least initially. Prescribed drugs are used to prevent disease, fight disease or help the body function. People may also take drugs, however, to change the way they feel; for example, to get high or to help them forget problems or to relax. If used repeatedly in this way, drugs often end up increasing a person’s problems rather than reducing them. Many drugs are addictive, and street drugs present additional risks since there are no controls as to their quality, content, safety or strength.
When discussing drugs with your children, try to be clear and concise while explaining the facts and discussing the pros and cons of use. You don’t need to protect them from the facts but neither do you want to go out of your way to scare them. For example, caution should be taken when discussing the addictive potential of any drug with your child. There are many factors that lead to the development of an addiction, such as amount, frequency and method of use, predisposition to addictive behaviour, and other risk and protective factors. Absolute statements such as “You will be addicted after a single use” are difficult to prove, and may ultimately hurt your credibility when it comes to sharing important information about the harmful effects of drugs.
Let your children know that you are open to conversations with them and want to hear their thoughts. You can do this in a casual or a more planned way (for example, at a family meeting).
To open up the discussion, it is helpful to:
Young people who use drugs may do so because they:
Each case is unique. Some young people might use drugs for one of the reasons listed above. Others may be responding to a combination of several different issues or problems. The reasons for using drugs can be temporary. A child may use drugs to cope during a crisis or while going through a difficult time and then stop when the problems get resolved or go away. They may experiment once or twice and decide that the experience is not for them. Or they may use drugs over a longer period of time. The risk of developing a dependency increases the more that a young person begins to rely on alcohol or drugs to help manage their emotions or experiences.
A combination of several of the following signs is a good indication that something is wrong. If you observe several of the following signs, consider taking your child to see a medical doctor or counsellor. If your child demonstrates certain signs and symptoms that suggest drug use, be aware of other possible explanations and avoid jumping to conclusions.
Various items, referred to as drug paraphernalia, are related to drug use. Some of these can be found in specialized stores or corner stores, or are simply home-made. Following are photos of drug paraphernalia:
Generally used to smoke cannabis. Bongs can also be used to smoke other substances such as tobacco, salvia divinorum, crack or methamphetamine. They come in various shapes, colours, materials, styles and sizes. They are often made of acrylic, ceramic or glass, but can also be homemade such as empty bottles.
Used to smoke crack (rock cocaine) and methamphetamine in the form of crystal (crystal meth).
Used when there is no glass tube available to smoke crack. Homemade pipes are made from easily available materials, such as soda cans, metal pipes, plastic bottles or tubes, etc.
Used as filter when smoking substances out of a tube or bottle.
Used to smoke marijuana, hashish, crack or methamphetamine.
Used as wrapper when selling substances such as cannabis. Can also be used to burn a substance and inhale the smoke.
Used to grind cannabis for smoking.
Used to roll marihuana joints.
Used to burn substances.
Used to raise the vein and slow the flow of blood to facilitate the injection of drugs.
Used to weigh substances when selling drugs.
Used to wrap drugs.
Used to hold a marihuana joint.
Used to mask red eyes and odours.
Used to snort or inject drugs.
Used to make lines of cocaine or any other substances.
Used to conceal substances.
Used to snort powder.
Discovery that your teenager is using or thinking of using drugs can be a stressful realization. Anger. Sadness. Fear. Confusion. These are some natural reactions. This may present challenges for your family and will require a commitment by your family to deal with the problem. The important thing is to not let emotions guide your decisions, and address the problem in steps that build toward a solution for the whole family.
Communication around this issue with family members is important. As hard as it may be, you must tell them that your teen has a drug problem. Short and to the point will keep emotion from settling back into the issue and might strengthen your ability to deal with the problem. What you need from the family is support, understanding, and a non-judgmental attitude. More disruption from family members can make the problem worse.
Since this may be new to many parents, you want to use this time to see what the best course of action is to solve the problem. What are your options? Seeking information from various sources and gathering as much knowledge is helpful, but do not make a decision until you have weighed all the options.
Talk with someone you trust, such as a school counselor or family doctor. You may also want to look to other local resources such as CLSCs, treatment centres or any other resources that are designed to help stop the use of drugs. You can also ask for the help of the following resources: