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Talk about drugs and new drug trends

Young people and drug use

Adolescence is a period when young people come into contact with new ideas and behaviours. It is a time to “try out” adult roles and responsibilities. The desire to take on more independence may see young people seeking to explore what they or their peer group view as more ‘grown up’, interesting or new ideas which could include substance use. At the same time as these new issues are emerging, it is important to recognise that the young person’s brain is still growing from the ages of 12 until their mid-20s. Using alcohol or drugs during this time can damage the growing brain, causing long-term emotional problems and difficulties with learning, planning and memory.

Substance use (or other behaviours) of peers, as well as rejection by peers, can be important influences on the behaviour of young people, although the influence of parents still remains very significant – parents matter!

Research shows that young people view their parents as credible sources of information and are influenced by parental beliefs and behaviours. By parents initiating drug awareness discussions, it means they can create an understanding that the topic of drugs and alcohol is open for discussion in an honest and compassionate space.

Research shows that the earlier young people get involved with alcohol and drugs, the greater the risks both in the short and longer term. In light of these many risks, it is appropriate for parents to maintain an expectation that their children avoid alcohol until an appropriate age and avoid drug use. As with any rule or expectation, many children will at times fall short of the safety standards that we set.

The most commonly used substances in Ireland are alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy and cocaine. New, different trends may emerge from time to time among different groups of people. These novel trends may be reported extensively in the media and generate a lot of attention. This year one such trend was in relation to Nitrous Oxide, although another trend could easily replace this in the coming months. Whatever the specific trend, the appropriate general principles in responding to drug use remain broadly similar.

See our information for parents who are concerned about Nitrous Oxide use

For more information: parents section and the HSE resource 'Alcohol and Drugs: A Parent's Guide'

Get information about the different types of drugs here

Contact your Local or Regional Drug and Alcohol Task Force

The HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline 1800 459 459 available Monday - Friday 9:30 am - 5:30 pm

The National Family Support Network

Authors: HSE National Social Inclusion Office and Dr Bobby Smith, Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist


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