'Is my child using cannabis?'

It isn't easy to live with adolescents under normal circumstances. The situation becomes a whole lot worse if they start to use drugs.

Lack of communication, arguments, secrecy and self-centredness are all part and parcel of growing up, so it isn't always easy to tell if drugs are involved.

Cannabis is the drug most young people begin with, and we know that its use can lead onto harder drugs, there is evidence it primes the brain for harder drugs, so preventing use is vital.

Parents should follow their instincts. If you have a feeling that things are not as they should be, talk to your child and to the school. If your child is using cannabis (and the age of initiation is falling in the UK to an average of age 12-13), your child is almost certainly getting supplies from another child at school - ask the school what their policy is on possession and dealing of the drug. Be confident - they are in loco parentis and most children begin their addiction at school!! You may be able to nip things in the bud. Get together with other parents - parent power is strong, remember you are the clients. Find out as much as you can about drugs to empower you. Remember that cannabis is not the same as it was in the 60s and 70s, it is 2-3 times more powerful and potentially very dangerous to the mental health of the young! As one addict said to us "Skunk' may be Class C but it has a Class A effect. "I've tried just about everything but it was that stuff that I couldn't handle, completely messed with my head, it was awful." So there you have it - from the horse's mouth.

SO WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR?

  • A combination of changes in behaviour, physical appearance, emotional outbursts, money going missing, school grades dropping and new friends being substituted for old ones, should all start to ring alarm bells.
  • Constant lying, treating the rest of the family with disrespect, continually challenging their values and even becoming verbally or physically violent towards them.
  • Staying out for long periods with no explanation, secrecy as to where. Try to get a land-line number of where your child is staying overnight, (no number, no stop-over). Check what your child's friends' families' attitude to skunk is - discourage visits to homes where smoking is allowed or a blind eye is turned. Make your home a drug-free zone immediately, (and smoke-free zone if you can, including the garden, to avoid any confusion).
  • Stealing money, shoplifting or making secretive phone calls.
  • Dilated pupils are a physical sign that is pretty fool-proof for parents, and evidence of Optrex in bags and pockets is one to look out for.
  • Lack of interest in the future, lacking in ambition, couldn't care less attitude in a child who was once conscientious.
  • 'Baggies' in pockets, (small plastic bags) with pungent, strange smelling residue or substance (usually green), large or small Rizla papers, bus-tickets/card torn in shape of a 'roach' (used to make a filter). Items connected to drug taking include; matches, burn marks on clothes or furniture, plant seeds/stems, small cardboard tubes, silver foil, candles, blackened spoons, clothes with an unfamiliar or smoky smell, pipes.
  • Unpredictable eating and sleeping patterns, unkempt appearance and neglect of hygiene, speech slurred, more infections, stomach upset, indigestion.
  • School grades slipping, classes skipped or even playing truant, teachers disobeyed and held in disrespect.
  • Old friends discarded and new ones, often older, encouraged. Never having money and being very antagonistic to any type of authority.
  • Mood swings are common, as are insensitivity and emotional outbursts. They find it difficult to concentrate and pay attention, so have difficulty in remembering things. Time is meaningless, and they are secretive about where they have been and whom they have been with.

    © Talking About Cannabis www.talkingaboutcannabis.com