Admitting to taking drugs

My ears were pricked when I heard about a new study being discussed this week.   A study done in the US by Dr Jennifer Kam recently that looked at 500 high school pupils and their conversations with their parents about cigarettes, marijuana and alcohol.  And whether parents should be admitting to taking drugs.

This is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the Telegraph this week:

While previous studies have suggested that parents should be open about drug-use to make their children less likely to take drugs themselves, the study showed that the opposite is the case.

The report, published in the journal Human Communication Research, said that even when parents spoke about negative experiences, it increased the chances of their children also using drugs.

However, children whose parents did not talk about drug-use but delivered a strong anti-drug message were more likely to exhibit anti-drug attitudes themselves.

Dr Kam said: “Parents may want to reconsider whether they should talk to their children about times when they used substances in the past.”

Now I have a problem with this.

The implication is that we should lie to our children about drugs.  Because, they suggest,  being honest about having tried them will make our children more likely to want to experiment with them.

I am sorry but I don’t agree with that take on bringing up my children.    And from what I can tell to date my stance on such matters is having no detrimental impact on my teens

We were emptying the dishwasher recently, all three of them and me, in the kitchen (a rare occurrence) and we started discussing drugs as several of their friends have dabbled to varying degrees.   I said “I have tried drugs”.   This stopped them in their tracks and they were all floored.  And looked at me.   And then all laughed.   “Oh my god, you have tried drugs?!”.

“Yes” I said.   I had, wasnt keen and didn’t bother again.

But why would I lie to them?  Even by omission?  I wasn’t trying to be cool.  I was trying to demonstrate to my children they could trust me.   That I had an experience they could ask me about if they felt the need.  That I had been them once and I knew what peer pressure was about.    That I wasn’t born 42.

Did this make them go out and decide to try them for themselves?  No it didn’t.   They have seen friends get expelled from school / suspended from school and grounded / end up on the streets after being kicked out by their parents / begging for money in order to feed a crack habitl.   They know how damaging drugs can be because not only have they seen the effects, they have been educated.

Educated that drugs become addictive, fund crime, make your clothes smell, cost a fortune and don’t make you look cool.

Talking is what educates children and help them make informed choices.   Not lying to them and saying “No I never tried drugs and therefore nor must you”.

Next we will be telling our kids we have never had sex.

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  • My teen hasn’t asked yet, but like you I plan on being honest. I dabbled pretty regularly in my youth, and while that turned out ok for me, I have some friends who that didnt work out well for, and I will be making sure that message gets across too. Honesty is my preference, and I will pass on to her the rule that served me well- all things in moderation. If you want to take something, take a small amount. You can always take more, you can never undo what you have already taken. Same rule applies to booze too! My preference would be for her to steer clear, but if she is going to partake then I would rather she was safe and also able to be open with me if things went wrong. Also currently, anything I ever did is uncool and embarrassing so there’s the chance that knowing I did it might put her off all together!!

  • I agree to a degree, it’s definitely hugely important to talk and be up front about this issue, but I can’t help but think that you would view this differently if you had spent, for example, 3 years at uni experimenting with every drug know to man, and yet had managed to come through unscathed. This is the case with many parents that I know, and yet I can’t help but feel that being a little more economical with the truth would work better for them with their children, or else they’re basically saying “try everything you like, you’re young & if you’re lucky (like me) you won’t get addicted or have any lasting health problems”, which as we all know, can never be guaranteed! I agree with what your saying in essence, and my conversation would go along the same lines as yours, but I don’t think it’s always the right path!

  • I am of much the same opinion as you and Sonya; for me honesty is by far the best way forward. My mum was always honest with us and I respected her for it.

  • Totally agree honesty is the best policy.Being honest about what you have done in the past can help your teenager when it comes to drug taking – if nothing else it instantly removes the ‘cool factor’ from it!

    Also bad experiences are great to be honest about too, cautionary tales talked openly and not preachy can really help. x

  • Yes, BUT……..what if the (completely honest) conversation went something like this…….
    “Mum, did you ever try drugs when you were younger?”
    “Well as you ask, yes darling, I did.”
    “What did you try & did you like it?”
    “What DIDN’T I try?!! I took everything & anything, loved it all! My university days were a complete haze, but I had the best times with a load of equally drugged up friends, hell, I even did a bit of dealing”
    “Did you really mess up at uni because of it?”
    “Well actually no darling, by some miracle I got a First, so then I stayed on for my Masters, allowing a couple more years in the drug haze.”
    “So you’re okay with me trying an ecstasy tablet then?”……..

    This is where I think I would struggle. I’m totally honest with my children (teenagers) but I don’t have anything that I’m afraid of being honest about……but for the people I know for whom the story above is accurate, not so easy, in my opinion!

    • I agree. And only can judge how much we tell our children. Or what we don’t. You may choose to admit you took some things but not others. Or all of it. What I would say is that “In my day” Ecstasy was not around and from what I read in the papers many drugs these days are mixed with other substances such as Ajax, making them life threatening.

      Not that there is any such thing as a clean drug but drugs in the 70s and 80s were not what they are now.

      But the point of my post is that I strongly disagree with lying to my kids.

  • I’m in no position to join the discussion on drugs but I can say a word or two about booze! Didn’t go mad at University but did so during National Service which overlapped with my first senior hockey games. Not even sure whether what follows is of any real value but you never know…….

    At home hockey games, along with my peers, I condoned players under-age partaking in “refreshments” but I also noted that older players monitored and regulated such activity. This controlled intro to drinking was limited to Saturday afternoons so I don’t know what happened the rest of the week but I don’t remember any complaints from parents. I conclude that this approach was reasonably successful.

  • My brother is a recovered (he has been clean for 10 years) heroin addict, who started out smoking pot, which he got from another boy at school, when they were on holiday together. He went from pot, to trying various other things, and ended up on heroin. It was a horrific time, for him, and for us as a family. He thankfully was helped to get clean, and is very anti drugs now, because of his experience. He tells a story of how, he and an acquittance took a load of heroin (he injected – thank God he didn’t end up with Hep C or HIV) and both passed out, when he woke up, his “friend” was fitting, turning blue, and died in his arms. That scared the life out of him, and he went to ask for help. I plan to have him explain to my children what drugs are, and what they do, and tell his story. We are a very open family, my kids are too young at 6 and 2 to know what drugs are, but we will discuss them openly and honestly. I don’t believe in lying to kids, or pretending about stuff. I tried pot once, and it made me feel really sick, and to be honest, I am OCD and a control freak, so I don’t like feeling drunk, or drugged up – I hate feeling like I am loosing control, so drugs never really appealed to me, so I never bothered with them.

  • I completely agree that honesty is the best policy. My parents didn’t take that route with me and as a result I didn’t talk to them about anything – I couldn’t go to them for honesty or an open conversation.

    At my secondary school we had a charity come talk to us every year. All recovered drug addicts. In small groups we would sit with these adults, the teachers would have to leave the room, and they would tell us about their experiences. Good and bad. We could ask anything we wanted.
    For me, it worked. I did try a few things once or twice at uni – but I was always careful, wary and responsible about it and didn’t take it further than that.

    I believe that if we want our children to talk to us and value our opinions we have to speak to them with honesty and respect. It’s only if they feel they can be trusted to make the right, informed decisions that they will trust themselves to do so.