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Why do young people think some drugs are 'safe' or 'harmless'? Put simply, we tell them 'lies' and we don't teach them to 'respect' all drugs

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The most commonly used definition of a drug is "any substance (with the exception of food and water) which, when taken into the body, alters the body's function either physically and/or psychologically." Drugs can be legal, illegal or pharmaceutical and can be taken in a variety of ways, including "via inhalation, injection, smoking, ingestion, absorption via a patch on the skin, or dissolution under the tongue." 

Over the past 18 months I have been talking (and writing) about a number of substances that appear to be becoming increasingly popular with school-based young people - nitrous oxide ('nanging'), 'jungle juice' (or amyl nitrite), cannabis, and ecstasy/MDMA. With all of these, growing numbers of students are telling me that they (or at least, their friends) believe these drugs to be 'safe' or 'harmless' - two words that you don't ever want to hear young people use in relation to drugs. Now, before you start to panic …

"Why didn't the parents make any contact?": A mother's frustration after her daughter's 14th birthday party

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A few weeks ago a woman (let's call her June) approached me after a Parent Information Evening. After thanking me for the talk she then proceeded to tell me about a birthday party she had recently hosted for her daughter. As she said, all went well with the actual event - it had been carefully planned, rules and boundaries put into place and the girls were well behaved and there was certainly no issue with alcohol - but June and her husband had been totally blindsided by the response of the parents of the invitees. We spoke at length and I have to say, some of the things she told me even surprised me! I then asked her if she would like to share her experience with readers of my blog. June's only concern was that she could be identified by other parents at the school and the possible ramifications that could have on her daughter, as well as her and her husband. With that in mind, names and some of the details of what happened have been altered.

"I've attended a couple …

Keeping your child safe once they leave school: "Tell me why I shouldn't be worried"

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I was recently asked to write an article for Connect, an online fortnightly publication for parents and teachers across the Sydney Catholic school system. Although it was the drug-related deaths at music festivals over the summer months that attracted most of the attention, sadly there were other young people that died as well. Over the Australia Day long weekend an 18-year-old young woman who had only just recently graduated from a Sydney Catholic College tragically passed away after reportedly taking the drug GHB. The girl's father, spoke exclusively to the publication urging parents to warn their children that "just one silly mistake could be their last". The article containing that interview is a 'must-read' for all parents. What haunted me the most in the story was the description of the father dropping his daughter off on that fateful night: "As she got out of the car, he told her to stay safe and she replied "I love you". He drove off conte…

Increasing pressure to be 'perfect': Let's not forget we have wonderful kids and amazing parents out there

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Can you imagine being a teenager in today's complex world? My teen years were particularly tough but I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to go through adolescence in this era of social media. Every image of them is scrutinised and judged by the world at large, as is all that they do and say. We may have done stupid things when we were young but, for most of us, there is no photographic evidence of any of it. Today, there is no room for a mistake or an error in judgment, as every activity is likely to be captured by some sort of electronic device and be available forever for people to examine, criticise and condemn. That's got to be tough ...

It's the same for parents. Talk to your own parents about what they did when you were young and most will certainly let you know that they didn't have any book or parent seminar to raise you and your siblings. They just got on with it … Today, however, there is far greater access to information on how to parent …

6 things you need to tell your P-plater child about being breathaylsed and RBT

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It's the Easter weekend and police will be out in force on the roads in an effort to prevent senseless tragedies from occurring. Random breath testing (RBT) units will be stationed on roads across the country and if you have a young driver at home and they are planning to go anywhere over the next few days, it is highly likely that they will be pulled over and breathalysed. For as much as it called 'random', in reality, very few P-platers mange to drive past an RBT unit and not get ushered into being tested.

Random breath testing was introduced across Australia in different jurisdictions during the 1980s (e.g., NSW in 1982, Tasmania in 1983 and Queensland and WA as late as 1988). Since then, trauma from fatal crashes involving alcohol has dropped, e.g., in NSW it has fallen from about 40% of all fatalities to the 2017 level of 15%. It's a strategy that works and, unlike speed cameras (which some people regard as a 'revenue raiser'), it has wide community suppor…

'Pre's' and 'free's': What are they and why are they so popular?

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There would be very few parents of teens who are not aware of 'pre's', i.e., smaller gatherings held at someone's home before the actual party or other event, (e.g., school formal, concert, music festival, etc) where young people meet to prepare for the night ahead. This usually (but not always) involves some sort of pre-loading on alcohol, particularly if they know that the event they are attending has security present or the parents hosting the party are known to be vigilant when it comes to underage drinking. Some of these events are actually hosted by parents who want to provide a 'safe space' for their child and their friends to drink alcohol. As I have said many times before, what you do with your child around alcohol is totally your business, but inviting other people's children to your home to drink without ensuring that is okay with their parents is shameful. I also question the idea of allowing your teen to have a few drinks and then sending them…

What do you say if your teen asks you if you used drugs?

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Without a doubt some of the most difficult conversations you're ever likely to have with your teen are going to start with them asking questions about your behaviour as an adolescent. Although these sometimes come out of nowhere, they usually arise when your child wants to do something you don't want them to do (i.e., rules and boundaries are set and they don't like them) or they have been caught doing something they shouldn't and there's been a consequence imposed. The questions may be relatively easy to deal with such as whether you got into trouble at school, or what you got up to at parties and whether you broke rules or not but, on the other hand, they may be really challenging and have to do with your sexual behaviour during that time of your life and/or your past alcohol and other drug use. Now, if you and your partner were absolute 'angels' and you never did anything wrong (and if that is the case, both of you are quite unique!), then you really do…