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What to do if you are worried about a child

Substance Misuse

Substance misuse is the harmful use of substances (like drugs and alcohol) for non-medical purposes. The term “substance misuse” often refers to illegal drugs. However, legal substances can also be misused, such as alcohol, prescription medications, caffeine, nicotine and volatile substances (e.g. petrol, glue, paint).

Worried about a child?

You probably can’t stop your child from coming into some contact with drugs, but by staying as informed as possible, you can help them make the right choices when they do.

Most young people don’t do drugs and most of those who do try drugs don’t keep on using them. Research shows that a child is more likely to develop a problem with alcohol than with drugs.

It's natural to feel concerned if you think your child is doing drugs – but don’t panic. Most young people who experiment won’t become regular users. Cannabis is by far the most common drug that young people take and only a small minority of those who use it move on to other drugs.

There are serious risks involved in drug use, but most of those who try drugs don’t suffer any long-term harm to their health.

What do we mean by drugs?

The drugs covered on Frank are:

  • illegal substances – like heroin, cannabis and ketamine
  • misused household products – like gases, glues and aerosols
  • some medicinal drugs – like gabapentin and codeine (which can be misused)
  • alcohol and tobacco
  • Psychoactive Substances – still sometimes referred to as ‘legal highs’

Why do people do drugs?

People take drugs for lots of reasons. Having a better idea of why your child takes drugs will help you when you talk to them.

To have fun

Some young people take drugs occasionally to have fun, socialise and relax. For these people, taking drugs might not become a problem, and they’ll probably stop before any serious harm occurs. You can explain that some drugs are illegal and can affect their physical and mental health – especially if they’re still growing – and that while you may not approve, they can always talk to you about any worries they have.

To experiment

Some people are just curious. They might try drugs once or twice to see what it’s like and then decide to leave it. Most people who do try drugs don’t continue using them.

To ‘escape’

Some people use drugs as a way of escaping their feelings. They might be stressed, depressed, anxious or insecure, and they might think the drugs are helping them – when they’re actually making things worse. If you think this is the case, talk calmly to your child and look for ways to work through these problems together, so you can help them manage without drugs. If necessary, look for professional help.

To fit in

Some people take drugs to ‘fit in’, and because they’re under pressure to do so by their friends.

Supporting a child with addiction

Dealing with a son or daughter who has a serious drug or alcohol problem can be an emotional rollercoaster. The withdrawal symptoms from drugs like heroin can be very severe and cravings can continue to be a problem for quite some time.

It may take several attempts before your son or daughter successfully breaks their addiction even with support.

And while your child must want to stop using drugs or alcohol first – there are many different treatments and support services which they can use to support them.

You can search for local treatment and support services, or you may find it helpful to talk to a FRANK advisor on 0300 1236600.

You may also want to look into support groups for family members. This is a good opportunity for you to voice your feelings and see how others are coping.

For more information, please contact one of the below services:

Talk To Frank

West Berkshire Council - The Edge

Reading Borough Council - Source

Wokingham Borough Council - Cranstoun


Cannabis - Risks Signs and What To Do


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