I have to admit, as a parent who has almost three teens on my hands, the thought of my boys going down the drug route scares me witless. When I was a teen, the worst we could do was smoke a cigarette or sneak a week shot of vodka, but there were always some glue sniffers around the back of the bike sheds that the rest of us ignored.
Although we hear plenty on the news about legal highs, it’s not something that I’d ever really thought that much about. These things were what other parents had to deal with, but having come across an article online, it really got me thinking, and made me realise that every parent should know more about them.
They’re legal yes, but they might contain substances that are not legal in any way at all.
Some of them are not declared illegal to use and own, but it’s still illegal to sell them as medicines. It seems that people get round that by selling them as bath bombs, or garden fertiliser, or incense, and then label them as not for human consumption.
The NHS says they are called club drugs or psychoactive substances.
What can we do as parents?
We can have the discussions with our kids, making sure they are aware of what might be in legal highs and what could happen to them if they take ambigous substances. I’ve put off those kind of discussions about legal highs and just talked about the more mainstream drugs, but we’ll start to have them regularly now that the boys are older.
We’d be naive to think that our kids will never come into contact with drugs. Sadly, I suspect every teenager will come across them at some point. Listening to our version of drugs and legals highs, in collaboration with parents, carers and schools is much more informative than the kids who sit across from them in class.
We can explain the risks of mixing alcohol and drugs, legal or not, and we can let them know the potential effects, such as seizures, coma, paranoia and drowsiness, not to mention potential death.
I’m not going to go into the different drugs available as that isn’t what I want to get across. As parents, we have the responsibility to educate our kids on these, and allow them to make informed choices, and hope, with our fingers and legs crossed, that they make the right ones.
Schools have a big role to play in educating our children and for the most part, I think many do it well, but it’s not enough for us, as parents to bury our heads in the sand and let them get on with it. I missed a night where drugs were being discussed at our local school, though I wished I could have attended to see what my boys are told there. It does help if we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet.
Using Media and TV
We’ve all seen those stories, that most of us skim across, where some young person has been taken to hospital after taking drugs, legal highs or not. I plan on letting my children read those so that the message is coming from outside the home, and lets them know there are consequences that we cannot forsee if we head down that road.
Tell Them How WE Feel
Do our kids really know how we feel if we just lay down the law and say drugs are not acceptable? Somehow I doubt that very much. I started off going down the route that people who take drugs are dicing with death and giving all the negative aspects, without actually saying how I FEEL about the possibility of my kids taking drugs.
I can only tell them that I don’t want them to take drugs, but as parents, we can’t MAKE them avoid legal highs unless they want to. Lots of different things come into play, such as peer pressure, being part of a group and much more.
Lack Of Support
Lets face it. Our local councils seem powerless to act on the issue. Just a few days ago, my local paper reported that Councillor Ross Thomson was in discussion with local authority chiefs over what they could do, with the aim of banning the sale of legal highs.
Sadly, the article reported that a council official said Aberdeen City Council does not have powers.
Added to that, is the constant change of contents of drugs becoming available on the market, which makes banning the different ones very difficult indeed.
Tell Them What To Do If They Have A Negative Reaction
I know that nobody wants to know this one, but think about it. We don’t have to approach it in terms of what our kids could do if they overdose, but we can coach it in terms of ‘if they see someone they know or suspect might have taken drugs having a reaction.’
Things like getting to an A&E as soon after a reaction has occurred if it persists, or calling home, or contacting a GP, or just calling the NHS advice service on 111 is sensible.
You can find out more on legal highs at the FRANK.