As a parent, guardian, or other caring adult, you may find it difficult to talk with youth about drugs. Between illegal drugs and prescription medications, it may be hard to know where to begin.
Young people hear about drugs from friends, media, online, or even other adults, and some of this information may not be right.
It is important to talk about drugs regularly before there is an urgent need to do so. Many short conversations are better than a few long lectures.
There is no script for talking with youth about drugs. But here are some tips:
- Offer them control of the situation. Let them pick the time and place.
- Look for opportunities, like when you discuss school or current events.
- Plan the main points you want to discuss, rather than speaking on impulse. Avoid saying everything at once. Instead, keep it brief and target a few main points.
- Listen to them and respect their opinions. If they see you as a good listener, they may be more inclined to trust your input. Give them room to participate and ask questions and avoid being judgemental.
- Focus on facts rather than emotions. If you hear that a young person is using drugs, you may feel anger, sadness, fear or confusion. These feelings are natural, but talking about the issue is more productive than talking about your feelings.
- Respect their independence. Tell them you are trying to help them to make good decisions and communicate that your main concern is their well-being.
Talking With Youth About Marijuana
- Today's marijuana is more toxic than marijuana from many years ago. Studies show that the average level of THC, the main “mind-alternating” component of marijuana, has increased by 300% to 400% over the last few decades.
- Marijuana contains hundreds of substances, some of which are psychoactive and can affect the proper functioning of the brain and body.
- Regular long-term use can harm concentration, harm the ability to think and make decisions, cause memory loss and decrease IQ. Some of these effects can persist after stopping marijuana use.
- Marijuana smoke contains many of the same cancer-causing chemicals as tobacco smoke.
- It is estimated that 1 in 9 marijuana users will develop an addiction to marijuana.
Talking About Prescription Drugs
- Some prescription drugs have mind-altering properties, and for this reason they are sometimes used to get high.
- Prescription medications are the third most commonly-abused substances, after alcohol and marijuana among Canadian youth.
- Prescription opioids can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs like heroin.
- Taking prescription drugs without a doctor's approval is dangerous and can even be fatal.
- Prescription drugs, when used improperly or abused, are not safer than illegal drugs.
- There are many dangerous and unpredictable effects associated with abusing prescription drugs including addiction, overdose and death.
Preventing Youth from Taking Drugs
- The health risks from taking drugs depend on what substances are being used and in what combination, for example with alcohol. Also, some drugs can be laced with additives that increase health risks and risk of addiction.
- Drug use can have a negative impact on school performance, and increase the risks of sexual activity, violence and suicide and some drugs may increase the risk of serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia and depression.
- Many drugs are expensive. Youth who take drugs often, need to obtain money to buy drugs, which can lead to borrowing or stealing, and can seriously damage relationships with family and friends.
- Taking drugs can bring young people into contact with police and the courts.
Praise positive behaviours when you see them.
- Approval is important to most teens. Take every opportunity to praise and give attention whenever you can.
Encourage youth involvement in supervised activities.
- Look for activities that the young person can get involved with. Involve them in this search.
- Encourage them to go for a trial session or to just go and watch at first.
- Don't be discouraged if the first thing they try doesn't work out. Keep encouraging them to try different activities until they find something they like.
Set rules at home.
Parents have been shown to have an important and growing influence when it comes to young people's use of alcohol and other drugs. So start talking!
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