Going abroad: the drug conversation you must have with your kids

As a parent with a teen who is looking to go overseas for end-of-year break or even a gap year, a big part of your job in helping to increase your child’s safety is making sure they are informed. Unfortunately, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

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In February 2014, many of us were once again overwhelmed by media articles covering the Schappelle Corby story. Released from jail after nine years’ of imprisonment, Corby had been sentenced to 20 years after being found with 4.2kg of marijuana in her boogy board bag in a Balinese airport. With the media furore around Corby’s story dying down only a few months ago, Australian media is again turning to Asia, as Myuran Sukumaran, one of the Bali nine has had his last bid for clemency rejected and looks set to face the firing squad.

With these stories seeming to arise thick and fast, and young Australians continually finding themselves begging for mercy after drug indiscretions in other countries, we have to wonder – how does this keep happening? How do these young, yet grown adults make such tragic mistakes? And how does another young woman get caught up in drugs in Bali just days after Corby’s release?

Overseas travel: know the laws and stick to them

The answer isn’t a simple one. People have a lot of different reasons for taking drugs into another country – desperation, coercion, addiction or even just a desire to get rich and a misguided belief that they will be lucky enough to slip through the cracks. Perhaps the most alarming reason some young people get caught with drugs in countries less publicised than Bali, is because they aren’t really aware of the very different rules that may exist in that country.

As a parent with a teen who is looking to go overseas for end-of-year break or even a gap year, a big part of your job in helping to increase your child’s safety is making sure they are informed. Unfortunately, ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law.

What laws apply where?

Over the last year or two, drug laws, especially those applying to cannabis, have started to change in some countries around the world – but in others, they are as tough and terrifying as ever.

While in the USA cannabis use is legal in some states, it remains illegal in others. Countries like Indonesia, Greece, Japan, Russia and Turkey carry strong penalties, including gaol time, suspension of travel documents, and in Indonesia, the death sentence. In some countries, like Malaysia, possession of 200g of cannabis is considered trafficking, and the penalty is not one you want your kids to be facing. With so many countries in the world with different legal systems and laws, it’s impossible to list all of them, so as a parent, ensure you do your research before your child travels – even if you think they have never tried drugs and aren’t likely to.

Educating your child about drugs and travel

Saying goodbye to your child at the airport before they leave on a gap year or long trip can be one of the most difficult things you’ll do – although worrying the whole time they’re away may be even more difficult! To reduce your worry, it’s important you share your research about drug laws and possession with your child before they leave. This is not always an easy conversation, and in a lot of cases, likely your teenager will tell you not to worry, not to continue to talk about it because it really won’t affect them – but ask them to humour you anyway and ensure they walk away armed with the right information.

Overseas travel can be an amazing experience – especially your first trip alone as an adult. It is a period of discovery, excitement, freedom and worldly education and it can completely change your perspective on life as you’ve always known it. These kinds of trips are almost considered a ‘rite of passage’ for young Aussies, and as a parent you should be proud of your child’s independence and confident they will make good choices – but just remember, it never hurts to make sure those choices are well-informed with good research!

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