However, would you feel as secure knowing that 20 per cent of teenagers admit to having taken a legal prescription drug in the past year to get high? And that 75 per cent of kids using these legal drugs stole them from their parent's medicine cabinets?
Sadly, both statements are true. Drug use doesn't just happen out on the street.
Another fact to consider: almost twice as many young people admit to driving after taking drugs over alcohol. Forty per cent of kids had accepted a ride in a vehicle driven by someone who had just taken drugs.
Hundreds of quality studies show the damage, both physical and mental, that can be caused by using illegal drugs and misusing prescription drugs. Denying this reality by thinking 'it's not my kid' is not an option!
One proven way to reduce the risk is speaking with your child about drug use. American studies have shown that drug usage is significantly lower among teens in families where parents have talked to their kids about the risks. For instance, one recent study found that of the kids who had used marijuana, 21 per cent that used it said their parents had talked to them about the risks of drugs, but 41 per cent said their parents had not.
Sources: CCSA and PDFC.
While many parents say, 'Yes, I have spoken with my children,' it is interesting to note that kids often say, 'My parents have not spoken to me.' Could it be that children feel a comment from parents – 'You'd never do drugs would you?' or 'I'll throw you out if you use drugs!' – is not really a discussion?
Feeling reluctant to discuss drugs is understandable. First, it is easy to believe that your kids will never try drugs. As well, if it seems like they know more about the drug scene than you do, it can be hard to raise the topic and have a meaningful discussion.
Still, it is critical that you speak with your children about the risks of drug use and the benefits of being drug-free. The number one reason kids say that they avoid taking drugs is because they don't want to disappoint their parents. You can educate yourself! Trustworthy websites are a particularly valuable source of information (see sidebar).
Partnership for a Drug-Free Canada
A non-profit website that provides helpful advice and links to other related sites:
Search 'Health Canada' and 'drugs' to find information, including this website designed for teens:
Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse (CCSA)
General information about substance abuse issues: www.ccsa.ca
Centre for Addictions and Mental Health (CAMH)
The Partnership at drugfree.org
Drufree.org - Challenges for Law Enforcement
Drugfree.org - Prescription Drug Abuse and Adolescents:
Don't deny the facts. Face the truth that your kids are likely to encounter damaging drugs – on the street, in the medicine cabinet, in the person driving them home. Talk to your children, listen to your children . . . and do it frequently.
To snoop or not to snoop? Though it's controversial, a wide variety of prevention and intervention experts agree – if you suspect your child of drinking or using drugs, snooping can help keep her safe.
The big issue for many experts is whether or not to tell kids you're searching their room, school bag, cell phone, computers, and other technology to find signs of drug use. The answer really depends on your relationship, whether you think your child has been lying, and your comfort level. Do what feels right for your family. Just remember: it is your home and your child. You set the rules.
You should be able to defend the decision to search your child's room. If you notice a change in behaviour, unusual odours wafting into the hallway from the room (like pot and cigarette smoke), masking odours such as incense or Lysol spray, or other warning signs, find out what's going on behind that Keep Out sign. Your child needs to understand that the limits you set do not stop at the bedroom door.
If you decide not to tell your child, be prepared to explain your reasons if you are caught mid-search. Let your child know that you are doing it out of concern for his health and safety. If you find no evidence that your kid is drinking or doing drugs, try to find out if something else is on her mind.
Prescription drugs offer great benefits when used in the right way. However, studies show that as many as one in five Canadian teenagers may be misusing them.
Teens raid the family medicine cabinet for many reasons. Getting high may seem like the most obvious answer – but kids also use them to boost energy or focus, to deal with stress, to lose weight or bulk up. No particular ethnic or socioeconomic group is more vulnerable. All kids are equally likely to try these drugs, no matter who their friends are or where they live. Although some prescriptions are bought and sold among teens, most often they come from the homes of family and friends.
You can make a difference by educating yourself about the risks and talking directly with your kids about both legal and illegal drugs. Secure any medicines you may have at home, and keep track of your supplies. Finally, model responsible use of drugs – take all medication only as prescribed.