School’s out for summer – time to talk about alcohol and drugs
With schools finishing up soon for the summer holidays, parents are being encouraged to talk to their children and teenagers about the dangers of using alcohol and drugs.
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging parents not to be afraid to talk about the subject and highlight the risks associated with drinking alcohol and taking drugs.
The PHA’s Drugs and Alcohol lead Michael Owen said: “Many teenagers will be spending more time with friends over the coming months, possibly going to gigs and festivals, and perhaps even heading off on their first solo holiday, which could lead to drinking or drug taking, so there’s an important role for parents to talk to their children about the risks.
“Parents’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol and drugs have a strong influence on their children.
“Parents can make the first move and talk frankly about the dangers of binge drinking and encourage their children to have fun with friends without alcohol or help them understand the risks associated with taking drugs, so they don’t choose to take drugs without realising the harm they could be exposing themselves to.
“If your child is of the legal drinking age, encourage them to take care if they choose to drink. Staying within the safe drinking limits is important, as excessive drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.
“We understand that peer pressure can be a significant factor in drinking too much, so we urge parents to highlight the dangers around getting caught up in behaviour such as drinking games, which have the potential to quickly increase consumption of alcohol and this can be highly dangerous.
“Peer pressure is also an issue when it comes to drug taking. Many young people will try things out because their friends are. But with drugs, the risks are huge.
“The main risk factors when using drugs include taking too much of a substance, taking a substance over an extended period of time, “bingeing”, and mixing drugs with other drugs and/or alcohol.
“The only effective way to avoid risk is to not take any drugs which have not been prescribed for you by your doctor.
“Misusing drugs which have not been prescribed for you can cause serious damage to your health, or even death. You can never be sure what has gone into the drugs, therefore the PHA strongly recommends that you do not take them.
““If someone has taken drugs and is feeling unwell, please seek medical help urgently.”
Helpful tips for talking to young people about alcohol and drugs:
- Make the first move and bring up the topic. Don’t wait until there’s a problem before you decide to talk.
- Take time to listen to what your child has to say.
- Respect their views if you want the same in return.
- Discuss the risks associated with drinking alcohol and drugs.
- Discuss possible consequences of their actions and support them to make the right choices.
- Think about your own drinking and/or drug taking behaviour, and the influence this can have on your child’s behaviour.
- Assume your child doesn’t want to talk. Not talking to your child could be interpreted as your approval of them drinking and/or taking drugs.
- Assume they already know everything.
- Interrupt or be judgemental, even if you don’t agree with their opinion.
There are more handy tips on talking to your child about drinking in the booklet ‘You, your child and alcohol’, which is available from GP surgeries, pharmacies and online here.
For further information on alcohol limits and where to get help for both alcohol and drug problems visit www.drugsandalcoholni.info