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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…

New study finds parents are now even more likely to be the most common source of alcohol for teen drinkers: Why is this happening?

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The 2017 Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) report was recently released. This presents information on the use of tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter drugs (for non-medicinal purposes), and other substances in school students aged 12 to 17 in Australia. Around 20,000 students from public, Catholic and independent schools from across the country participated in the survey and it provides a great insight into what is currently happening in relation to alcohol and other drug use and school-based young people.

There are lots of positives in this report, particularly in regards to tobacco and alcohol. Fewer students are smoking and, those who do, smoke fewer cigarettes. The number of 12-17-year-olds who reported never drinking alcohol increased once again to more than one third (34%), up from only one in ten in 1999. Students were asked to select the most appropriate description of their drinking behaviour, with around 70% seeing themselves as 'non-drink…

You can’t just do the 'fun part' of parenting, you have to do it all!

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As much as I go on about how amazing our kids are today (as I always say, I am fortunate enough to get to meet incredible young people doing unbelievable things every day), I have to say I also come in contact with some pretty impressive parents as well. Mums and Dads from across the country who work so hard to ensure their teen is safe, happy and loved. It continues to blow me away just how many people can show-up at a Parent Information Evening, particularly this year, with numbers averaging well over 200 each night. This could be due to the drug-related deaths of those young people at music festivals over the summer period, but nevertheless, we live in a busy world and most families are 'time-poor' - to turn-up and listen to a talk after a day at work and/or looking after a family is a huge commitment. Of course, there are always going to be those scary ones who want to be the 'cool parent' and try to be their child's best friend and, unfortunately, those are l…

What is ketamine and is it really a 'horse tranquilizer'? Why are some very young teens messing around with it?

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Over the past couple of weeks I have heard a number of stories from students I have met about the use of ketamine (or 'ket' or 'K' as they have called it). Each of these related to an emergency situation that they wanted to share with me where they, or their friends, had needed to call an ambulance because someone they were with had lost consciousness or were unable to be roused. Stories about calling 000 and wanting to share the fact that they had 'done the right thing' is nothing new - I hear them all the time. Like almost every other incident I have been told about, all of them involved young people who had drunk too much but what totally surprised me was how casually some of these students talked about the person they had to look after was using 'ket' or 'K'.

Here is an example of one of those stories, with some details being altered to protect privacy:

Janet is 17-years-old and in Year 12. A younger male friend who lived down the road from …

The 'normalization' of ecstasy use amongst young people: 5 things parents need to talk to their teen about ecstasy/MDMA

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I have just started presenting at schools again and have updated my talks to cover what we know about the tragic deaths of a number of young people who died at music festivals over the summer. To be truthful, we don't know a lot … It takes quite some time for the toxicology results and the actual 'cause of death' to be released for each case and, as far as I am aware, family members can ask for the findings not to be released publicly. By the time we find out what happened (if we ever do), the results often attract little attention. Realistically, the faster we get this information, the quicker we can feed it back to users or potential users so that they can make more informed decisions and this has never been more important after what I have been hearing from young people in the last couple of weeks.

In my Year 12 presentation I present data from the UK and Europe highlighting the dramatic increase in the purity of MDMA (the substance you want when you take ecstasy). I s…

Every parent's dilemma: Knowing when to allow 'kids to be kids' and take some risks and knowing when to draw the line to ensure they stay safe

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Oprah Winfrey has been quoted as saying "I believe that one of life's greatest risks is never daring to risk." Although it can be scary, all parents have to let their kids put themselves 'out there', to try new things and to push limits and boundaries - that's full of risk but important if they are to become fully-functioning adults. At the same time, parents want their children to be safe. As with most things, we want to edge our bets and have it both ways and that's not always possible.

We give young people very mixed messages when it comes to 'risk taking' behaviour. From a very early age we encourage children to get out there and push themselves out of their comfort zone (e.g., taking their first steps unassisted, riding a bike without training wheels, swimming across a pool) and think nothing of it. In fact, parents take great pride in this type of behaviour. We know that's how kids learn, by taking risks and doing things they have never…

Starting high school: Why the first 3 months are so important and can impact on future alcohol and other drug use

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I still remember my first day of high school - it was horrible! I had attended a state primary school and my parents, like many others, made the decision to move me to the private system for my secondary schooling. It was a major financial sacrifice for my parents back then and they did it for all the right reasons, but it was tough! Apart from the move from a co-ed environment to a boys-only school being difficult (sport certainly wasn't my thing!), it was made even harder because I knew absolutely no-one. Many of the boys had come from 'feeder' primary schools and entered the year with established friendships - I was completely alone! I wouldn't wish my first few years at high school on anyone ...

It's important to acknowledge that it is now rare for children to be just thrown into high school and left to fend for themselves, with most schools developing and implementing programs to ensure that no-one 'slips through the cracks' during this difficult time…