Posts

'Pill testing': How would it work, what would it tell us and what are its limitations?

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Sadly, once again, we have recently seen a number of young people dying at music festivals after reportedly taking drugs. Around this time every year, just as the summer season is about to begin, we hear of either a tragic death or a spate of overdoses occurring. Let me start by saying that I can't begin to imagine what the families of these young people must go through. Not only have they just lost a loved one but at the same time they are suddenly thrust into the media spotlight and expected to provide some sort of commentary on issues they know little or nothing about (most of them having no idea that their child had ever taken drugs), all at a time when all they should be doing is be given time to grieve. The death is tragic enough but the 'ripple-effect' on the family and friends can be devastating …

Fatalities linked to dance events first hit the headlines in 1995 with the ecstasy-related death of a 15-year-old Sydney schoolgirl who had attended an underground '…

What is 'nanging'? 5 things parents should make sure their teens know about nitrous

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Many parents would have recently read about the death of a young man at Schoolies on the Gold Coast. The 18-year-old from Sydney died after falling from a balcony of an apartment and, according to reports, had been drinking with friends and apparently ingesting nitrous oxide. The use of nitrous is better known as 'nanging'. Although there has been no confirmation by authorities that nitrous had indeed been used by the young man, the media leapt onto the story and, as a result, there have been lots of questions asked about 'nanging' and just how big a problem this is amongst our young people.

If you want to know if young people are nanging in your area all you need to do is walk through your local park early on a Sunday morning before the cleaners have been and take a look around the rubbish bins or the trees. If it is (and to be honest, I don't think there are many places around the country where it isn't!), you're more than likely to see a number of used …

Parental peer pressure and alcohol: What if your child says "You're the only one who does that"?

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'Peer pressure' is an interesting concept and a term that gets bandied around regularly when it comes to young people and alcohol and other drugs. What truly fascinates me about this area is the inability of some parents to see that it is often they and not their child who are likely to buckle to peer pressure. Time and time again I meet parents who are heavily influenced (or pressured) in this area by what they believe other parents are (or may be) doing (usually because of what their child is telling them). Without a doubt, 'parental peer pressure' is mighty powerful and many people have no idea how to deal with it effectively!

I've been through some emails from parents over the years and here are just a few quotes that clearly show that some families are experiencing great pressure in this area:
"It seems like I'm the only parent in my child's year group that doesn't allow my child to drink. It's getting more difficult to say 'no' wit…

Teenage parties - when things go wrong: An ER nurse's perspective

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When a parent is asked by their teen if they can attend a friend's party on a Saturday night, most would assume that the details their child provides them about the event, (e.g., where it is being held, the names of the host parents and the time it starts and plans to finish) would be reasonably accurate. You have to trust your teen, particularly as they get older, even if they're likely to break that trust at some time or another - that's what adolescents do! But when it comes to parties and gatherings, it's always best to go to some other sources to establish exactly what's going on … 
Any parent who makes the decision to hold a teenage party at their home (or anywhere else for that matter) is pretty 'gutsy'. It takes a great deal of thought and planning to organise such an event and it is important to acknowledge that we see hundreds held every weekend right across the country that have few, if any, problems. Increasingly, those parents who do host these…

Teenage parties - when things go wrong: A paramedic's perspective

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With the holidays not too far away and the summer season almost upon us there are will be more and more parties and gatherings your teen is going to want to attend. These are important events and if your teen wants, or more importantly, 'needs' to go to them, you should try to find a way. This is where many young people learn to socialize in a different way from when they are at school and they can play a vital role in establishing where they fit (i.e., their social standing) within their peer group. At the same time, it is also important to remember that if your child doesn't want to go to parties - that's absolutely ok too! Don't worry that they're going to become some kind of 'social outcast' because they're not into this sort of thing - they'll usually find their own way at their own pace. Now as I've said many times before, when I say 'try to find a way' to let them go to a party, I don't mean that you throw all your rules a…

"You mustn't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you - do you promise?": What can (and should) a parent do with information their teen divulges?

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Last week I was approached by two parents who were faced with a similar dilemma - both of their children had told them something in confidence about one of their friends in relation to alcohol or other drug use. One of the parents had actually made the decision to come to my parent session because of the situation and was really struggling to work out what, if anything, she should do with what her son had told her. To protect the identities of all involved I have altered the names and some of the details of the stories but hopefully you'll get the general idea …

Renee believes she has a good, strong relationship with her 14-year-old son, Angus. They talk a lot and she knows most of his friends, as well as many of their parents. Last weekend, he went to a small gathering and, as always, she picked him and a few other boys up. After she dropped off the last one she could see that Angus was not himself. When she asked him what was wrong, he hesitated for a while but finally divulged …

Some practical (and safer) tips to support teen brain development and turn a time of "peril into promise"

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I've often written about the fact that teens are 'missing a piece of their brain'. It's something that I joke about with young people when I speak to them and ask them if they've ever suddenly done something quite bizarre and out-of-character and then just seconds later think to themselves, why did I do that? Without fail, almost every person in the room smiles and nods, acknowledging that, yes, they can totally relate to that experience … Strictly speaking, of course, teens are not actually 'missing' a piece of their brain, it's just that there are some important areas have not yet fully developed.

Development in the brain occurs in a back to front pattern, with the prefrontal cortex being the last area to fully develop, for females around the age of 21-22 years and for males much later (around 25-26 years at least, but recent evidence suggests that some development may continue until possibly even 35!). This prefrontal area is the part of the brain t…