A parents perspective


Possible signs of drug use can include changes in appearance, attitudes, sleeping and eating habits, friends, and interests. Unfortunately, these signs are also easily recognised as part of the growing up process, so just as a young person who does use drugs may show these signs, so may a young person who is going through the normal phases of being a teenager and learning to become an adult. Remember as teenagers get older, they want to become more independent and challenge the attitudes of parents and society in general. It is therefore very frustrating for you as an parent to know when to react to the signs and when not to over-react.

It is so easy to panic and become very emotional if you suspect a member of your family is using drugs. At the side of the page is a link to details of places where you can ring, or visit, to obtain further advice and support.

In the meantime, here is some helpful advice:

  • Try not to make accusations or start a row - if you are wrong your relationship with them could be damaged. Be sure of your facts.
  • Try to find a time when you can discuss things calmly without interruptions. Don't lecture them - remember how you felt about being lectured at.
  • Don't try to discuss their drugs use if you think they are still under the influence of a drug. This is especially important if your child is using gases, glues or aerosols.
  • Decide how you want to react if your child tells you they have used drugs.
  • Listen to their views and what they have to say about drugs.
  • Try not to get angry, especially if you think they are telling you lies about their drug use.
  • Explain and show that your concern is for their health and well-being.
  • Make sure they understand that you will always be there for them and that you will work through difficulties together. Show them that you love them.
  • Explain to them what sort of behaviour you feel is acceptable.
  • Don't threaten them with punishment as whilst this may appear to offer a quick solution, it is unlikely to give the long term results that you are looking for;
  • Make sure that they understand that they are responsible for their actions and the consequences that arise from those actions.


Most parents worry about their child trying drugs and forget that alcohol can cause serious problems for young people - as many teachers, hospital staff and police officers know.

Children naturally become aware of alcohol at a very early age, most having their first drink between the ages of 10 and 13, with their parent's permission. However, some children will start experimenting without their parent's knowledge, or may start to drink in groups, in a park or at parties with friends. They may be passing round cans or bottles and may often drink quickly through fear of being caught or because they want to get drunk.

When young people start going to pubs, to them, drinking often means getting drunk.

If you are concerned that your son or daughter has started drinking:

  • Try to react calmly;
  • Explain to them why you are worried and make sure that they understand the risks involved if they misuse alcohol;

You can encourage them to reduce the risks by:

  • Encouraging them to stick lower-strength brands and not to drink too quickly;
  • Explain the dangers of spiking someone else's drink;
  • Agreeing rules on parties. If they have a party at home, be around or close at hand. Remove temptations such as your own drink supply, particularly spirits, and provide starchy food (bread, rice or pasta) so they won't be drinking on an empty stomach.
  • If they are going out to a party, remember to find out where it is being held;
  • Make sure that they have a means of getting home safely.