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  • Thu, 30, May, 2019 - 5:00:AM

We need to help young people be safe around drugs

Dear parents everywhere: no matter what you think, your child has probably secretly taken drugs. Maybe it’s not all the time, maybe it was just once or sometimes at parties, but they probably have, and you should probably stop kidding yourself that it’s not happening just because that’s what you’d like to believe.

Sure, yes, not all teenagers are doing drugs every weekend. Some never do drugs, some try them once or twice and are put off for life. But the drugs are available, and a lot of kids are using them.

I was in year 9 (literally thirteen years old) when people in my group of friends started smoking weed. Most of my friends jumped at the chance for some teen rebellion, despite the fact that we’d barely hit puberty.

In year 12, people started disappearing into bathrooms at the parties I went to. I’d never notice at first, but at one point I would look around and half my friends were nowhere to be found. I wasn’t invited to these bathroom visits so I guess I can’t say for sure what happened inside, but they did return to the party very bright-eyed and bushy tailed, so you do the math.

The point is, kids gain access to drugs at an honestly alarmingly young age. People around them start trying things out and offering things around. There’s pretty much no avoiding the fact that young people will have access to drugs. If they’re going to do it anyway (and, spoiler alert: they will) isn’t it kind of a no-brainer to create safer spaces for young people to use? We can’t keep our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, because the people that hurts the most are the 13 year olds secretly smoking weed in a garage.

There are several things we could do to help ensure that young people are going to be safe if they choose to use drugs. Education is extraordinarily important. At this point, our drug education in schools seems to be based mostly on fear mongering, akin to the PE teacher in Mean Girls who tells students that if they have sex they’ll get pregnant and die. We need to do better than this. Our drug education should incorporate not only on negative outcomes but also information on health, safety, addiction and wellbeing.

We need to normalise and implement drug checking units, particularly at clubs and festivals. You can’t be safe around drugs if you don’t actually know what you’re taking. Overdoses and accidental deaths happen when people take pills containing a substance they’re uncertain about. Remove shame and the fear of criminalisation from the equation, accept that people are going to drugs no matter the laws or social stigma, and help them to do that as safely as possible. So they don’t die. That’s the bottom line.

Most importantly, the parents, caregivers and responsible adults in young people’s lives need to take a more honest and straightforward approach in their conversations about drugs. Don’t pretend it’s not happening, because it probably is, and you’re doing nothing to help them by ignoring it. Have conversations with the young people you know about your experiences with drugs, what it felt like, negative and positive, so they feel like they have a full understanding of what they’re working with, but also so they feel like they can be open and honest with you about their own experiences.

When all my friends started doing drugs in high school, none of their parents knew. Sounds super safe… right?


  • Drugs /
  • Teenagers /
  • Parents /
  • Young People /
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