The Big Deal
What's the deal today with kids and drugs?
I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine, George Orton, on my lovely new porch a few weeks ago (check out my Instagram, the porch is well worth a gander @thecourageousmumma). We were chatting about drugs. Her eldest was about to start secondary school and she wanted to know if I had any advice for her as to how to educate her child about drugs without terrifying him. And she also wanted to know how to educate herself about today’s availability.
Charlie, my 17 year old passed by in the middle of our conversation and so she asked him some great questions too and we both picked up on the fact that school, in Charlie’s experience and it’s been the same of my other children, largely go down the ‘Try a drug and you’ll die, route.’ And of course, his reaction to that was, I’ve got some friends who’ve tried it and they’re still alive. The credibility was so low from the school that he discounted everything they said. And so it will be with us if we don't tell them the truth.
What we say as parents, it’s of paramount importance. In fact I’d say that about all the big issues. I know the schools have to cover ground as there are some homes that just aren’t having those big conversations. But for those of you that are, don’t underestimate your input, reactions and attitudes as your children form values and habits.
So on that basis, I thought, it’s time for Tony France on the podcast. What better person for George to pose her questions to:
I first came across Tony France when my husband and I used to run the 'How To Drug Proof Your Kids' course in Cheltenham, about 14 years ago. He would come along to the last session of each course and answer questions.
He’s not your archetypal speaker, I’m sure he’d forgive me for saying he’s your more rough and ready, biker type. He’s got more practice than theory. And he’s been working with youth and drug problems for over 30 years. 20 years in the drugs and addiction services. Tony is a psychotherapist and has developed services here in Gloucestershire for young people including starting the charity Infobuzz. He's currently head of HeadSight in Winchcombe, Glos. He’s written courses on substance abuse for charities and organisations here in the UK and for the British Council, working in Europe, Canada and Africa. As director of Trauma action group, His passion is around understanding and responding to trauma. In fact, Just before lockdown he was due to go off to Sudan to work with and rehabilitate child soldiers.
On another note entirely, much of the A.D.D. and spectrum disorders that we see today can be linked to trauma. That’s another whole podcast. I never run out of questions for Tony, poor man. But today, I thought I’d hand the microphone over. It’s never too soon to be thinking about how to inform and respond around the area of drugs, but’s hard for me to go back to that place of launching my first child into teen-hood now that I’m on my fifth, so I thought the questions should be posed by someone who’s got them on the forefront of their mind. So I asked George to take the mic. She is a great communicator. I often find she’s asking the questions that others are thinking.
George shared what her parents had said to her to worry her stiff about even thinking about drugs and explained that she wanted to go in a different direction and asked Tony how to go about that.
Honesty is best policy
Building relationship and trust with your child is the key to tackling the drugs issue both before it could be relevant and in the event that they do decide to to try them.
Just because they try it doesn't mean they'll become addicted. You might find out when they're in their 30s during a Christmas lunch that they tried this or that.
It used to be that 50% of kids will try an illegal substance before 18, but the stats are nearer 30% at the moment, so there's a significant decrease.
However, alcohol a still big problem. In particular kids pre-loading before a party.
Tony's greatest concern was the rise in Mental Health issues.
What do we watch out for?
The problem arises when circumstances come together to cause the perfect storm.
There are times in our lives we are more susceptible but the combination of these three will make a young person (or an old one) more vulnerable:
When we lose our sense of community
When we lose our autonomy
When we don’t feel emotionally connected to others
During their teens they are rightly trying to find role-clarity. Helping and encouraging them to explore their values, their independence and their uniqueness will make them less susceptible to attaching themselves to the nearest peer with confidence.
Is there anything we can do to prevent them being seduced by drugs?
There is a drive in adolescence to alter our sense of consciousness
Risk perception is repressed during these years and they are seeking adventure.
Let them explore risk and be adventurous, then they are less likely to go for the internal adventures.
What makes a difference is relationship
The life context
The connection to another
When we are vulnerable we are more vulnerable to substance abuse
Don't say 'just say no'!
The 1980s campaigns saw the greatest rise in drug use ever.
Talking to our children honestly about the risks, the dangers, the allure, our fears will help.
Letting them know that we're here when they get into difficult situations and that we will hold back judgement, shouting, drama if they have made some poor choices, will help.
Do as you say.
Learn to hold fire when they come out with preposterous comments whilst they're still young and
when they make crazy choices.
They're watching. They need to know if you are emotionally safe when the stakes are high.
What else should we know?
Experiences are addictive, drugs are not.
The effect can be addictive and compulsive
We develop addictive behaviours
but it’s not th
e drugs it's us
Nicotine isn’t addictive
We can fool our bodies (nicotine patches), but it's the behaviour
we need to address and the need behind it.
For the full conversation pop here
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To find Tony France:
for HeadSight pop here
for Trauma Action Group pop here