As is the case with alcohol and a variety of illegal drugs, curiosity is one of the reasons that young people might be tempted to use NPS. Of course, for some people, we can’t ignore that the enjoyment of the experiences and adventure. The extent to which a young person feels resilient or marginalised will impact misguided perception that these drugs are legal can add to their attraction.
The perception of “legal” equating to “safe” seems thankfully to be shifting, but we should not take this for granted. It is essential that young people and parents get up-to-date and accurate information about these substances, ensuring that young people are aware of the risk of not knowing exactly what short and long term impact their use of these substances may have. But broader support is needed too.
Friendly and confidential advice and support is available from these organisations.
When discussing so called “legal highs” or other drugs with young people, it is best to avoid talking about them in isolation. Preferably it should be discussed as part of a wider discussion on skills development and support that can equip young people for a safe transition into adulthood.
A supportive family relationship can make all the difference in preventing drug problems from developing. The issue of drugs has always been associated with fear and embarrassment and so the problem can become hidden and a taboo subject for conversation. It doesn’t have to be that way. Parents are often able to discuss alcohol and cigarettes with their children, so why not other drugs?
On most life matters, young people learn from their parents, but these days they often know more about drugs than their parents. So there is often a difficulty in getting these kinds of conversations started, and sometimes they can descend into recriminations and suspicions. Only open and frank discussions on drugs can be useful.
When planning to have a discussion on the subject, remember that every family is different and you will know what elements, timing and environment will work best for you and your family.
Once you start, then what seemed a daunting issue for conversation can be much easier to handle than expected. And if the goal is better protection for your children then it must be worthwhile. It is very important you let them speak, so ask leading questions (What do you think about ‘X’? Have you heard anything about this new drug?).
They should do at least half the talking – so let them speak, a lecture is not going to work. These conversations should not be confrontational. For younger ages, they should help prevent them from taking the drugs at all. In all cases, parents should be giving young people the confidence to turn down drugs if they are offered to them.
- Many media stories about drugs are exaggerated and can give inconsistent and conflicting information, so try and find more balanced sources of information such as that shown on this site and the relevant links we have given to provide you with help and support.
- Most young people don’t take drugs
- Stay calm, have a rational discussion
- Don’t make it a long conversation. Move onto another subject as if it were just another topic. It will make it easier to bring it up again.
The main point to get across in your conversation is to stay safe. Obviously the best strategy for young people to stay safe is not to take any drugs, whether legal or illegal as there are always risks attached.
However, young people should be aware of the risks, should know there is a huge amount of uncertainty about the active ingredients in these new party drugs and what the potential harms are. Friends at parties and clubs should always look out for each other and be prepared to call for medical help if necessary.
1. Choose your time carefully, perhaps over a meal and make sure you both have time for a relaxed conversation. Make a plan of how you want to start.
2. Think about where the conversation should not drift towards – make sure you don’t antagonise or sound as if you are preaching to them or laying down rules. Make them feel comfortable about discussing their experiences.
3. Ask open questions – and listen carefully – don’t interrupt your children when they are talking. Listen to what they have to say and make them feel comfortable about having an open discussion with you so that they know that you value their opinion.
4. Make sure you make it safe for your teenagers to open up to you without being fearful of the consequences. Try and stay relaxed.
5. Always be honest – base your conversation on fact and let them know that you are having these discussions out of deep concern for them as you care about their wellbeing and that of their friends.
6. Be willing to learn. Listen carefully to what they have to say and watch their body language. If they look awkward, then they probably will be wondering if they have the courage to tell you the truth. Make them feel that it’s okay to be honest and let them know that there are no penalties for telling the truth.
7. Try and be a good role model – if they see you indulging or drinking to excess it may make them think it’s okay to follow your lead. They may also say it is being hypocritical.
8. Look out for signs – If your child or teenager is unwilling to have a discussion with you or they seem withdrawn, anxious, paranoid, restless or agitated and lose their appetite it’s may be good idea to seek advice quickly.
9. Set boundaries – ensure that you set rules for your children to follow as guidelines of the behaviour you expect and make sure you enforce them so that they know where the line is.
10. Speak to other parents – talk to any other parents you know. If you are friends with your children’s friend’s parents consider having a conversation to discuss the subject of so called ’legal highs‘so that they are informed too.
- Check internet history on a regular basis
- Check any ‘suspicious’ packages which arrive at home which you may not be expecting – whether addressed to you or to someone else at your home address