As a parent, there may be no bigger worry than wondering if your child is using drugs and just how you can help them and keep them safe if you find they are experimenting or using regularly.
Here are five tips to help you manage your suspicions and maintain a good relationship with your kids.
1. How can I tell if my child is using drugs?
The best way to find out if your child is using cannabis or other drugs is to ask them.
Build an honest and open relationship with your teenagers so you can have frank discussions about drug use and provide your opinions, boundaries and advice.
Be aware many of the common symptoms of drug use, such as changes in friendship circles, moodiness, problems at school, apathy, lack of motivation, or changes in sleep patterns, may just be generally attributed to adolescence, and are not necessarily indicative of a drug problem at all!
2. The consequences of using cannabis
The impact of using cannabis is different for everybody. Some young people will use cannabis only a few times and not experience any negative effects, especially if they avoid the general risks associated with intoxication such as driving. Others may become addicted, or experience negative effects on their education, health, sporting achievements and relationships, due to a decrease in motivation, attention and memory, or effects on mental health, which are more likely to be seen with regular and/or heavy cannabis use.
Generally, the negative effects are greater if a person starts using cannabis from a young age. Adolescence is a key time for brain development, so cannabis has a greater impact on the developing brain than on an older person. Research has also shown cannabis use may trigger mental illness (particularly schizophrenia) in people with a genetic or environmental predisposition.
Cannabis is illegal in every state and territory in Australia. So your child runs the risk of getting a criminal conviction for possessing, dealing or growing cannabis, and this could have negative impacts on their future employment prospects and their opportunities to travel overseas.
3. How to answer the have you ever used cannabis question
Talking to your kids about drugs is hard, especially if it s your own drug use they want to know about! Some parents feel it is best to be honest, but others feel uncomfortable with the question and don t want to reveal too much about their own lives.
If you admit you used cannabis, your children may think it’s OK for them to do the same. If you have never used it, your children may think you don t understand or relate to them, or you don t know what it s like .
Use your discretion on this and provide an age-appropriate answer. If you feel it is suitable, you could answer honestly and give your own opinion about the decisions you made. Let your child know how you would feel about them using cannabis.
Things you could keep in mind when broaching this subject:
- Two thirds of Australians have never tried cannabis, so not everybody does it.
- Pot potency is generally higher these days than it used to be and people tend to smoke the stronger part of the plant.
- There is no ‘best way’ to smoke weed. Every method of consumption has negative effects.
- The human brain isn t fully formed until around 23-25 years of age and any drugs, including alcohol, that are introduced during brain development can have long-term consequences.
- Cannabis is not legal in any state or territory in Australia. The concern is not just about teens health, but also a potential criminal record that can interfere with travel and employment opportunities for years to come.
4. How should I talk to my child about drugs like cannabis?
Most parents believe it s their responsibility to educate and talk to their children about drugs, but two-in-three Australian parents aren t sure of the facts about cannabis use and its effects.
Gather factual information, and be clear on your biggest concerns about your child using cannabis. It can be very powerful to express your concerns, so don t undervalue the potential for your voice to have a positive impact. Express yourself clearly and be honest, be non-judgemental, avoid ultimatums and stay positive.
Don t feel you have to cover off everything in one big talking to your kids about drugs conversation. It can be an ongoing dialogue, where you can use opportunities in the media to break the ice. If someone you know has had problems as a result of drug use, this can be used to ask your child s opinion and express your own.
5. Do s and don ts, if you find cannabis in your kids room
Don t panic, jump to conclusions, think of all the ways you will punish your child, or get the drugs tested to find out what they are.
Don t take your child and the bag of mystery powder or grass to your local police station to teach them a lesson. Remember that the substance may indeed be illegal and you can be incriminated yourself for possessing it!
Do have an open conversation with your child and give them a chance to explain themselves and the situation. When talking to your child about drugs, express your concern for their safety, health and well-being, and the legal consequences of their actions.
For more information, videos, tips and FAQ visit our section of the website just for parents right here.