Alcohol, cannabis and tobacco are the 3 most commonly used drugs by teenagers.*

The teenage years are a time of experimenting and trying new things, this can be on the sports field, a new interest or more risky behaviour. This can lead to some young people trying illicit drugs. Their reasons are many including peer pressure, new social circles, the desire to feel differently, for fun, the thrill of risk taking or to help with the pressures of study and feelings of anxiety.

 

*The facts:
67% had tried alcohol with 21.1% drinking alcohol on a weekly basis
12% had tried tobacco with 7% smoking on a daily basis
2.1% had tried cocaine
21.5% had tried cannabis
4.7% had tried ecstasy

Ecstasy: signs and symptoms:
Signs include a quickening of the heart rate, dilated pupils and a raised body temperature. The user can experience increased sweating, nausea and loss of appetite. They can become nervous, experience insomnia, hallucinations, panic attacks and tremors. At times they may seem confused.
Marijuana (cannabis): signs and symptoms
Signs can include slow thinking and reflexes, memory problems leading to poor academic performance, reduced coordination and difficulty concentrating. The pupils are often dilated and the eyes can appear bloodshot or glassy. The user can become very moody, anxious and experience panic attacks.
Speed: signs and symptoms
Signs include rapid heart rate, increased breathing, nervousness and restlessness. The user can also become aggressive and suffer from headaches, fever and blurred vision. They can have paranoia, hallucinations and insomnia. There is also a risk of infections such as HIV and hepatitis as a result of needle sharing.

Top tips
1-Get involved in their lives
Do things together as a family; it can be as simple as eating together. Keep the lines of communication open and take an interest in what they are doing. Encourage their friends to spend time at your family home.
2-Let them talk
Let them know that they can always come to you with their worries, make time to listen. Try not to interrupt them or react in a way that will stop whatever you’re discussing.
3-Lead by example
Model appropriate behaviour such as drinking moderately, not smoking and not using illicit drugs.
4-Be honest with them
Be informed about various drugs but don’t pretend you know everything. If you are honest and clear with them then they are more likely to be honest with you.
5-Make it natural
Talk to your children about drugs from an early age. Try to make it a natural part of conversation, take your cues from TV programs, national awareness days, school programs or other opportunities that may arise.
6-Stay calm
When it comes to talking about drugs, being calm and rational is important, as well as not overreacting as this may put them off talking about things in the future.
7-Avoid conflict
If a confrontation does develop, stop the conversation and come back to it when you’re both calmer.  Resist the urge to issue an ultimatum; it will only drive a wedge further between you and your teenager.
8-Set clear boundaries
Generally teenagers expect and appreciate some ground rules. Get them involved in deciding and setting the rules, there is more chance of them sticking to them this way. Once you’ve decided on these rules, enforce them, and let your kids know the consequences of breaking them. Establish agreements and guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour around alcohol and drugs.
9-Focus on positives
Be sure to reward your kids’ positive behaviour and emphasise the things they do well. Encourage them to feel good about themselves and let them know that you respect and trust them. Allow your child to practise responsibility and develop good decision-making skills from an early age.

*According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey of Australians aged 14–19 years, in 2010.

Paul Dillon, author of Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs and Generation Next speaker will be giving a drug and alcohol update at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars which are held Australia wide throughout 2012. To find our more go to Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People Seminars.

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: National Drugs Campaign. Australian Drug Foundation.