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Staying Safe Around Others

Taking Drugs

Your child is growing up and will start to explore the world around them. They will become aware of drugs and may meet people their own age who use them.

How you talk to your child about drugs can help them to understand the risks. You can help your child think about how they respond if they feel pressured to do things they don’t want to do and who to talk to if they feel this way.

Dive Deeper

Feeling Worried?

Some of your child’s behaviour may worry you but doesn’t mean they are taking drugs. Some changes in behaviour you may notice;

  • Being very tired
  • Not eating well
  • Mood swings
  • Not interested in hobbies
  • Sometimes stealing or asking for money more often
  • Changes to skin and red eyes

Remember growing up and hormones can cause changes to behaviour and there can be other reasons for changes and challenging behaviours but if you are worried about drugs you can get help.

If you think your child may be taking drugs it’s best to talk to them at a time when they have not had any. You might feel many different emotions; sad, angry or let down. Try to stay calm when you speak to your child and prepare what you will say. Give them a chance to talk and listen to your child’s reasons; ask how they are feeling and talk together about what support they might need.

Your child might be angry and upset that you know they are taking drugs. If they get angry, avoid shouting, take some time out to calm down and come back to them later. Remind your child that you love them and you are upset because you care about them. It might not be realistic to expect your child to stop completely straight away, agree small goals that are more achievable.

The Effects Of Drugs

Help your child to understand the dangers of taking drugs. Some of the negative effects might include;

  • Using drugs can affect mental health and may cause depression
  • Taking drugs like cannabis while the teenage brain is still developing can affect learning and memory
  • Taking drugs may increase risky behaviours and lead to people doing things they wouldn’t normally do
  • Drugs can cause health problems and there is a risk of overdose. This is when so much of a drug has been taken and it is toxic to the body 
  • Being found with drugs can lead to a criminal record
  • Drugs are addictive, it can be really hard to stop using them
  • Drugs can be bought illegally and it is difficult to know what is really in them.

Read more about the effects of drugs

Your Feelings

You may have had experiences involving drugs yourself, or someone close to you. This might make it more difficult for you to talk to your child about alcohol, or make you more worried that they will try drugs. Your own experience may mean you understand more and you can use this in talking to your child. If you need to talk about your own experiences with you can find information and support at Norfolk Alcohol and Drug Behaviour Change Service.

It can be helpful to understand why a child might try drugs. Teenagers are more likely to take risks, they could be trying to fit in with a group of other, they might just be curious or they might think drugs will help them feel better if they are depressed or anxious.

Find out more about Children and Young People's Emotional Health

Talking & Listening

Listening as well as talking helps your child to know they can share their views and talk to you. Try not to give your opinions too quickly, repeat words your child uses back to them so they know you are listening.

It can feel difficult to start a conversation about drugs with your child. You might use a TV programme, film or something you hear on the news to get started. You could talk about this while cooking a meal together to make it feel more relaxed. Give your child time to talk and share their views.

Help them to understand the dangers of taking drugs, like becoming addicted and affecting health.

Explain to your child how it can be difficult to stop something when it becomes a habit, lots of people wish they didn’t start something but find it very hard to stop. Even when people might stop taking drugs they can still find the effects of the drugs impacting on their lives and find things difficult.

  • Offer time and space.
  • When you talk to your child about drugs you’ll get an idea of how much they know. They may have questions.
  • Encourage healthy activities that your child enjoys doing. They’re less likely to abuse substances at a young age when they’re busy enjoying hobbies and interests. Have a look at some free activities you can do in Norfolk.
  • Active Norfolk has some low cost sport clubs. These are often held in secondary schools and there are also groups running during the school holidays.

It’s understandable that you may want to give your child more freedom as they grow but you are also right to stick to your boundaries that you have at home and when they are out. You could agree together a time your child must be home or a bedtime that you are both happy with. For example you could explain why a good bedtime routine on school nights is good for them and if they keep to this allow them to stay up a little later at weekends. Listen to your child’s reasons for what they think is okay. Reward your child for trying to keep to your boundaries.

When you let your child make choices you are helping them grow and learn. Show them you understand how difficult it can be when they feel pressured or just want to feel part of a group. Tell them about when you were a child.

Remind your child of what they’re good at and why you are proud of them. Feeling confident about themselves can help in building self-esteem and in making good decisions. Childline has some great tips about being assertive and feeling strong enough to say ‘No’. You could talk about a time when you felt pressured, what did you do? What might have helped you?

Tell your child they should never take anyone else’s medicine or tablets, it’s only okay to take what the doctor has given for them. Explain to your child that they might not understand what the medicine is really for, how much to take, they could be allergic to it, and it might react with something they are already taking. A doctor will prescribe a medicine because he has made a diagnosis, knows your history and will give instructions on how to take it correctly.

Social media is often a big part of a young person's life and it can often feel that they are glued to their phones. As a parent/carer if you are worried about who your child is contacting on their phone, talk to them. You can always check who they are messaging.

It can be hard to understand all of the current social media platforms, so if you need to talk about your young person's internet use or are worried about who they are talking to online, you can always contact us for advice and guidance.

Who can Help?

The Matthew Project delivers Unity, the specialist Drug and Alcohol Service for children, young people and their families across Norfolk. If you are worried that your child is taking drugs they can offer advice and support.

If you are worried that your child is taking drugs you can also contact Frank. They will give advice to parents concerned about alcohol and drugs.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480635060 for confidential advice from one of our team.

Qwell provides free, safe and anonymous mental wellbeing support for adults in Norfolk and Waveney from a professional team of qualified counsellors.

For 11–25 year olds Kooth is a free, confidential and safe way to receive online counselling, advice and emotional well-being support. 

Childline - Children and young people under 19 can call 0800 1111 for free support.

Young Minds Parents Helpline - Call 0808 802 5544 for free Mon-Fri from 9.30am to 4pm.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

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