Paul Dillon, author of Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs and Generation Next speaker says “There are so many questions that need answers, but how do parents start talking to their kids about alcohol and drugs? Asking Are you taking drugs?’ won’t do it, that approach won’t give teenagers the information they desperately need to keep themselves and their friends safe.”

Peer pressure can be the biggest influence on teenagers when it comes to taking illicit drugs and engaging in risky behaviour.  Here are  tips on how young people can say ‘no’ to drugs and still stay cool with their friends.

Great minds think alike. Hang out with people that you share common interests with other than drug taking.  If you feel pressured into doing something you don’t feel comfortable with then they are not the friends for you. Think about what you enjoy doing and join a social or sports club where you can meet people like you.

Stay true to yourself. It is hard to have the strength to say ‘no’ but it builds resilience skills and develops self esteem to stick with what you believe in. Genuine friends will respect this.

Respect others. You may not agree with some choices your friends make but if you respect their choice then they are more likely to respect yours and not try and pressure you into taking drugs.

Take action. Sometimes you are able to tackle peer pressure if you are older, or feel more comfortable in your environment. Standing up for someone else may help you feel stronger about your own decision.

Suggest something else. There are lots of fun things to do that aren’t drug related. Get your friends involved and enthusiastic about doing something else. For example, going to the movies, making your own sports team or playing games.

Fake it. When people are under the influence of drugs they do not always realise how pushy they are. This can make it harder to say ‘no’ to them. However they are not fully aware of the situation around them and this can make it easier to slip away, make up an excuse and move on or look like you are having fun anyway. So rather than confront them and risk them becoming unreasonable, just make an excuse and move away.

Don’t pressure yourself. Sometimes pressures can come from inside us; changing schools, moving house, starting a new job can cause this. These changes all bring their own pressures and stress and it can be tempting sometimes to take drugs to help boost your confidence to cope with your new surroundings.

Look after yourself. This means making decisions that are good for you and keep you safe. Being an individual who can think for themselves doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a group; just don’t follow it blindly.

Where to get help and information:
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
Tel. (02) 9361 8000 *Toll free. 1800 422 599
Tel. (03) 9416 1818 *Toll free. 1800 858 584
Western Australia
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
Tel. (08) 9442 5000 *Toll free. 1800 198 024
Tel. (08) 9442 5050 (for parents)
*Toll free. 1800 653 203
Alcohol and Drug Information Service (ADIS)
Tel. (07) 3236 2414 *Toll free. 1800 177 8334

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: NSW Health, Cannabis information & helpline