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What are cannabis 'edibles' and should Australian parents be worried?

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Just over 18 months ago I was contacted by a school that had recently had a nasty experience with 'edibles'. How the story didn't make the papers I will never know but a Year 7 student had managed to access a packet of cannabis gummy bears from an older sibling, took them to school and then handed them out to a few of his friends. The 12-year-olds, completely unprepared for the experience, became quite unwell and were rushed to hospital with teachers believing it was a case of food poisoning. They were finally able to work out what had actually happened by finding the  discarded packaging identifying what the children had consumed. The school wanted to know if I could help them with some information about this product and whether I knew of other Australian schools that had experienced a similar problem.  Gummy bears are one of the most popular 'cannabis edibles' available today. They, along with thousands of other products are part of a billion-dollar industry tha

What should parents say when their teen says "But it's not smoking" when they find out they're vaping?

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I've been working with schools for a long time now and have seen many alcohol and other drug trends come and go. New substances come onto the market and often disappear just as quickly as they hit the streets, while older drugs, once relatively popular, may see a resurgence in use after some time away from the scene. The substances most likely to cause significant harms are rarely used by school-based young people, however when it comes to vaping and the use of e-cigarettes, anecdotal reports suggest that's just the group that are most likely to be picking up the practice. About ten years ago an increasing number of reports of vaping started to come out of the US with headlines like  'E-Cigs Timebomb', "Hooked on Vaping' and 'Sales of Smokeless E-Cigs Catch Fire'. By 2015 I was asked to give a series of presentations across the country on 'novel ways of smoking' and included a section on vaping and e-cigarettes. At that time there were very few

Teens and cannabis: Can you stop them using if that's what they want to do, and if not, how can you best deal with the situation?

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Early last year I wrote about the growing number of parents who had contacted me in relation to cannabis. We've recently seen an increase in the use of cannabis (marijuana, weed, grass, ganja, pot) by Australian young people and although we're not anywhere close to the levels of use that we saw in the 1990s, it would appear that something is definitely happening.  Getting a call from the school and facing the nightmare of, at best, having a child suspended, or at worst, having them expelled or asking them to be withdrawn, must be earth-shattering, particularly if you didn't see it coming. For most parents, this is a 'one-off' thing - their child do something stupid with their mates, get caught and they won't do it again. Experimentation is a part of adolescence - that doesn't mean it's harmless but it's what some teens will do. Unfortunately, for other parents, this will be the start of a long dark road and it's often really difficult to see the

I don't like my teen's friends. Is there anything I can do?

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It's much easier to monitor your child's friendships when they're attending primary school. At that age they're still far more likely to tell you more about their mates and, for the most part, they still really care about what you think. When combined with their reliance on you getting them to where they want to go as well as stronger parent networks that exist in the primary years, it becomes a lot easier for you to keep your child away from other children that you simply don't like that much. Finding your teen beginning to hang out with a new group of friends can happen at anytime and be due to a range of reasons, most of which parents have little or no control over, but it is when they make the transition to secondary school that you're likely to see the biggest change. This is a time that requires all students (whether new to the school or not) to establish new peer groups. A significant number of new students enter the year group and there's a change in

4 lines your teen is likely to throw at you when it comes to alcohol and parties and 4 responses to throw back!

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Adolescents can be masters at getting what they want when it comes to their parents. This can be achieved in many ways, with some of the best including  'siloing' or isolating one or more of their parents (from each other and from other adults) and then setting them up against each other, throwing as many guilt trips on them as possible and hoping at least one of them sticks and, of course, one of their favourites, comparing you to other parents who apparently let their teens do whatever they want, whenever they want to do it ... As I've written many times before, when it comes to making rules for your child around alcohol and parties only you can make those decisions. No so-called 'expert' can (or should) be making those choices for you and more fool you if you start listening to your best friend or a relative about what you should or shouldn't be doing in this area. My best advice is to get the best quality and up-to-date information on the topic and then '

"But alcohol is much worse than cannabis" and what about 'responsible drug use'?: Responding to a 16-year-old's email

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I haven't posted a blog entry for quite a while. With all the different COVID-19 restrictions in place across the country it became extremely difficult to put together an article that applied to all. Now that things have settled down a little, hopefully I'll be able to get a few pieces out over the next couple of weeks that may assist parents across the upcoming holiday period. In the meantime I thought I would share an email I received from a young man and my response to him regarding a disagreement he was having with his parents ... "Hi Paul, I am 16 year old male and have been having a disagreement with my parents. They have read your book and they have also heard you speak a number of times. I have done copious amounts of research that suggest drugs such as cannabis and psilocybin are relatively safe drugs to use in moderation. I completely agree that regular use is unsafe for a developing brain, but my usage of cannabis had only been occurring about once every 10 week

Vaping: Sorting out 'fact from fiction' for those parents struggling with the issue

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I've written a number of articles about vaping in the past, the first in 2014. Back then I was beginning to receive messages from schools across the country asking for advice on how to deal with the use of electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes as they are better known. Students were beginning to bring these devices to school and teachers, not surprisingly, knew little about them. In 2018 I wrote another piece, this time in response to concerned parents who had stumbled upon these devices in their child's bedroom. When they had confronted them about what they had found they were usually met with comments like "But it's only vaping" or "At least I'm not smoking" and had no idea how to respond. Last year I posted another article about a mother who sent me an invitation to a 15 th birthday party her son had received that included a 'No vaping' message as a condition of entry. She was used to seeing 'Strictly no alcohol' on invitations