Drugs and small children

Of all the talks, the drug talk is probably the most problematic.

The sex talk and the car talk have been cornerstones of teen parenting for decades and of course the internet talk is the new trend conversation between parents and eight year olds. But these talks need to occur because we know that eventually, all our kids will get online, have sex and drive a car.

But the drug talk can be avoided – whether your parental approach is a zero-tolerance, just-say-no style or you want to let the education department handle it – or even believing our children wouldn’t take drugs – the drug talk just doesn’t seem popular. Plus every parent has a different viewpoint and few would claim to be anything but anti-drug. Which in my case would be… ahem… hypocritical.

The thing I like about blogging and Twitter is that sensible conversations between parents can occur without tabloid sensibilities – so let’s have one here.

First off, let me just give a full disclosure of my past and current drug use – both legal and illegal.

0-13: Nothing

14-18: Alcohol

18-21: Alcohol, caffeine & marijuana

22-29: Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, ecstasy, speed, coke plus a few ‘tried once or twice’ like LSD and mushrooms

30+: Alcohol, heaps of caffeine and ecstasy about three or four times (so far)

Just on the last one: I’ve got kids. At my age pills take about two or three days to get over. The extra energy or sparkle or whatever you want to call it that drugs give a night simply isn’t worth the horror days dealing with kids. They know. They punish. I’ve probably had my last pill but I guess never say never, eh?

Though more seriously, just listing what I’ve done does little to reveal anything about myself or my attitudes – depending on your viewpoint I could range from either being morally compromised in any drug discussion to a wannabe showoff. So let me push on (no pun intended) so you know exactly where I’m coming from.

First off: if I had to summarise my experiences around drug use for the past 20+ years it would be this: mostly positive, ta very much.

I’ve had lots of vastly enjoyable experiences, a couple of scares, and a few uncomfortable mindfucks. I’ve learnt that I’m not a violent person (sleep depravation aside), that I quite enjoy high energy or emotion enhancing drugs and don’t enjoy low energy drugs like pot (at least, not since my teens).

I’ve learnt that, for me, creativeness flows from drug use. I remember nights of mad writing in my mid-twenties, pages (of terrible, terrible writing) exploding from me due to being unable to sleep from using speed. I’ve learnt I do not enjoy the hallucination bubble that LSD seems to give me. I’ve learnt never, under any circumstances, cook a recipe you’ve thought up while stoned. Especially if you think this recipe will solve world hunger.

But I’m aware I approached teen drug use from the best possible position. I’ve only used drugs as a social tool, not as an escape (my oh-so-hard-done-by-late-teen-trying-to-get-laid-by-appearing-to-have-a-deep-inner-poet may have disagreed, but he was a tosser). I was solid middle-class born, Canberra-raised in a high-employment middle-class stable community. Neither money nor addiction have ever been an issue.

I’ve seen shit, sure. I’ve seen a guy launch an Australian magazine at twenty-one, move to New York at twenty-three on more money PA than I’ll ever earn, become a smack head and be unable to hold a waitering job at thirty. I once encouraged a girl on her eighteen birthday party to put a little speed in her beer, and she later became pretty messed up – she’s fine now but five years of her life were wasted. At uni I once was sitting next to a guy who had a violent uncontrollable acid flashback mid-lecture. My former boss, drug dealer and flatmate once cleaned out our apartment, took off never to be heard of again after taking my rent money for months but using it for drugs and gambling on pokies. I found out when I came home to an empty apartment and pissed off reality agent. In an incident I look back on in horror, at a party in my own apartment a guy was convulsing from mixing drugs and we put him in the bedroom to basically wait for it to wear off. Only years later did it occur to me that I should have taken him to the hospital and how lucky we were that he didn’t die. One New Year’s Eve after a night on the pills I opted out of getting a new bag of ten e’s and went home. Everyone who had one of those e’s ended up in hospital.

Anyone who knows what a ‘special coffee’ is and the story around it knows I had questionable, questionable judgement at some points.

But I’ve never seen anyone get killed or OD or any the really bad stuff that happens on piss poor cop TV shows or novels by Irvine Welsh.

So I’m also aware that I’ve dodged bullets, when others haven’t, my life has turned out fine while others are ruined and that I’ve been able to walk away when others couldn’t. I’ve had excellent guides and advice along the lines and I tend to think about shit a fair bit too, which led me to walk away from most of it in my mid-late twenties to start a family.

So there you have it. I’m not anti-drugs. Like anything, your ability to handle them varies from person to person and situation to situation. I acknowledge that people will have horror stories. But one of the reasons government scare ad campaigns don’t work is that the scenes they depict they simply do not reflect the realities and experiences of tens of thousands of teen and adult drug users each weekend.

When I consider my children’s future I prefer, of course, a drug free one… in the same fashion I’d be happy if my daughters wait until I die before they have sex. Wait, even that isn’t true. Drugs, if done right, are enjoyable, safe and perception-enhancing.

Yeah you read it right: not only do I acknowledge that my daughters will take drugs in the future, I expect they’ll enjoy it. To me, that’s a reasonable position not too far from saying ‘While I know that alcohol abuse is rife in Australian society, I believe my child will be able to handle it’ – which is probably a statement most parents would agree with.

The realities are: Drugs are out there. No matter what job you get, what education you have or where you chose to live – drugs will be available and offered to your children. My personal experience included two of my bosses being drug dealers to the team. The scenario is not unlikely for teens and young adults today. Like sex, my daughters will eventually try drugs. They’ll think they’re all cool and rebels and shit. But eventually the ‘new’ experience will get old, and they’ll move on as I have.

So, without future dithering here is my plan for the drug talk. I really would like feedback and discussion, especially from anyone who’s given the drug talk or plans to shortly.

I plan to give the talk to my daughters when they are around thirteen. I’ve already been told this is probably too late. I think it’s the perfect time between having a pretty decent knowledge of drugs but prior to having taken them. What say you?

The guidelines I’ll suggest to my daughters:

– When people offer you drugs, talk to them about it. What’s cool about it? What’s not? How does it make you feel? How is the come down? What happens the next day? People love being the ‘experts’ – so they’ll answer most questions honestly

– If it doesn’t sound like it will be fun, it probably won’t be

– Don’t try the addictive stuff. It’ll fuck you up

– No needles. Careful as you are, you can’t always control the dosage. Everything else it absorbed slowly, unless injected. You can’t spew your veins up

– Start small. Try a quarter pill

– The hospital is your friend. Hospitals won’t call your parents unless you ask them to. You won’t get in trouble, you’ll just get help

– Plan ahead & manage the after-effects. Suicide Tuesday is easier to handle if you know it is called Suicide Tuesday

– Don’t be the first to try the new drug. Yes, I’m saying use your friends as guinea pigs. Don’t eat the new batch until someone else has

– Honestly review your behaviour – change drugs if you don’t like what is happening, or, you know, stop

– Take it if you can leave it. I’ve been told once or twice this statement is a wank.

– Call me if you are fucked up and need help. I’ll come get you. Worldwide. No judging, no talking until you are sorted

So. It’s going to be a fine cussing line between education and condoning. And that’s the essential difference between the car, ‘net and sex talks. We, generally, condone car driving, think the internet can be bloody useful, and condone sex between consenting adults. So education is important. But we don’t condone drug use. A tough one, yes?

However: I’m their parent, not their friend. I’m never going to introduce them to any drugs or encourage them to take it. While I say above that I expect my daughters will take drugs and enjoy them, they’ll never, ever know I have that opinion.

I know the signs. I’ve been there. And unless they are taking addictive drugs, I’ll be pretty cool about it. I’ll know.

Hypocrisy? I don’t know, probably?

So I’ll probably do the talk the first time around thirteen, and repeat it every couple of years. Obviously, their attitude will evolve of time with opportunity and experience.

So – bring on the navel gazing questions:

– Are drugs any good?

– Is not using drugs better?

– Can you raise a guarenteed-never-going-to-try-drugs child?

– Has the drug scene changed since my youth?

– Is an anti-drug stance hypocritical, justifiable or wishful thinking? Not just for me, but for anyone.

– Does education also imply condoning?

– Am I a complete naive fool?

Over to you…


16 thoughts on “Drugs and small children

  1. “Call me if you are fucked up and need help. I’ll come get you. Worldwide. No judging, no talking until you are sorted.” I particularly like this part. It’s so important for them to know that if things go to shit that you will be there for them and not to be too scared to call you.

    Your experience is similar to mine and the approach you plan to take sounds really sensible to me. You can’t come down too ‘anti’ or they’re just going to rebel anyway. My belief is that we need to educate them about what we’ve learned and how to partake sensibly – drugs as well as alcohol – because in today’s world we’re dreaming if we think they’re not going to at least try it.

  2. I went on my year 10 camp and all the boys were taking avils, travel sickness tablets to get off their face. It wasn’t long before we all wanted in and being a girl who gets sick on the bus myself, I had the goods.

    Long story short, we took about 10 each, I went running through the bush in Canberra in the middle of Winter, looking for someone to talk to me. With no shoes on. I was running along mountain crevices.

    One of the other guys slept under the bus in his undies in fear it was going to leave without him.

    One guy spewed up in the wastepaper basket.

    Most just hallucinated about Japanese men in Wheelchairs & people wanting to kill them.

    So, long story not so short – we got busted, the teachers put 2 and 2 together and came up with drug taking little bastards.

    Strangely enough, they didn’t send us all home, they let us see Sydney and Canberra whilst all the time knowing that when we got home we were going to be in a world of trouble.

    I got suspended, lied to my mother, had her worrying when I would take a bath that her good girl was going to commit suicide (never crossed my mind) or turn into a drug addict. God, if I could take back the hurt I caused her, I would in a heartbeat.

    But I’ve got to say, to do this, to feel ashamed, to get in so much trouble, put me off the heavy shit forever. Worst I’ve ever done is alcohol or marijuana. That’s it. Never even taken a pill for fear of losing my shit.

    So I guess what my parenting talk on drugs will be, take it easy. I reckon, just like me, they will have to learn their own lessons. Doesn’t make it any less scary as a parent though.

  3. I’ve always found recreational drug taking so middle class. My mother was a hippy and took drugs prior and post my birth and I had people around me when I was younger who took various drugs at various times. I distinctly remember having a conversation with my mother when I was around 10 about the marijuana plants growing in the backyard. Consequently it was just not interesting to me whatsoever. I’ve had the odd joint here and there, and sometimes with my Mum, but nothing beyond that. I’ve also experienced peer pressure over the years, even as recently as the last few months and I’m closing in on 30. All of my friends who have taken lots of pills and powder variety drugs have been from standard middle class, nuclear, suburban families completing their traditional, boring rebellion. Probably after their parents had big long in-depth thought processes about how they’re going to talk to their kids about drugs 😉

  4. I really love reading your blog posts. You take the thoughts most of us have but are too scared to put out there for fear of judgement. Like pins to a magnet we all come and think “yes” that’s how I feel. I’m going to comment now that our favourite Idle Dad has made it easier for us. Thank you for that.

    I have a 16 and an 18 year old. The 18 year old has dabbled in pot and some pills. I didn’t condone it, but I talked to him about. Often. I worried like crazy, I encouraged him to hang out with his “other” friends, but in the end I gave him enough rope and hoped he wouldn’t hang himself. He didn’t. He knew I was there for him and he knew he could call me if things went pear shaped. He ultimately didn’t like the feelings it gave him and he stopped. He comes home stoned every now and then now, but he’s 18, he works and he’s a good boy. I was doing the same thing at his age.

    My 16 year old did everything his brother did, only 3 years earlier. This time last year, my 16 year old was a pot head. I was sick with worry. I spoke to him often about it. He didn’t let on at that stage how much he was into it. Three months ago he came to me and said he had a problem and needed my help. He has now left school (unfortunately he had disengaged to the point of no return – for now), he’s fit, healthy and drug free. He is doing a traineeship at the local gym and has life in his eyes again. I have my baby back.

    We discussed drugs as a family from the time they started asking about them. I told them honestly that I had tried pot and mushrooms. We always have and always will discuss drugs. None of us condone them, not even the boys. They know that too much and the wrong kind can totally screw up your life. They also know, like Idle, that they can have an awesome night with them. As scary as that sounds, we all know it’s true. We just don’t want to admit. My boys have always known that no matter what they do, I will not judge them and I will be there for them.

    Sorry for hijacking your post. I’ve been wanting to write about this for a couple of months, but too scared to put it out there. Thanks for giving me the chance.

  5. I like your thinking. Having had a similar relatively positive experience with drugs over the years, I’ve only recently considered how I’ll broach the subject in the future with my now 2 year old daughter.

    My biggest rules over the years, beside what you mentioned (especially as a girl, cause let’s face it, there are a few differences) were:

    1. Regardless where u go / what your planning to take/swallow/sniff ensure you’re with 1 or 2 friends, and you’ve all agreed to “rules” – i.e not leaving without telling others, watching for warning signs etc

    2. Have the “reverse charge” number saved in your mobile. Never leave home without decent battery charge in your mobile

    3. As you say with your kids, My poor Mum figured she had a rebelling teenager on her hands. She threw all curfews & strict rules out & simply asked that I was careful, & no matter what I done, where I was if I needed help I’d call her, & she wouldn’t judge or ask any questions. Twice I took her up on this as a teenager, & she stuck to her word.

    Because of the freedom/trust I actually reined in some pretty self destructive behaviour, and am to this day known as “Mum” to my highschool friends as I became the grown up in the group. Interestingly, of those with super strict parents, were the worst behaved.

    4. Keep a 2nd bit of cash stashed somewhere… Ideally enough for a cab home, but if skint, then just $10 to get yourself outta trouble. Bra, knickers, shoe are good for this (alternatively, a $20 cab charge voucher that can’t be spent on booze/drugs/smokes is a great option parents!)

    Thanks for your post. I’m still not sure how I’ll broach the subject in 10-15 years, but this has definately helped, & was brave of you! 

  6. My perspective on this whole thing is informed heavily by the 5 years or so that I spent working in a residential drug and alcohol treatment centre for men. I think that zero tolerance has been proven, again and again to be counter-productive and a waste of time.

    I think there’s also a level of hysteria around illicit drugs that far outweighs the risks. The legal drugs (cigarettes and alcohol) kill far more people (I think about 20 times more?) than do illegal drugs.

    That being said, having worked in a residential environment you see what happens when people hit rock bottom, they’ve already shot up about a million dollars up their arm and it’s a miracle they’re even still alive. And I’ve known people who were clean for over two years who have turned around and overdosed.

    It’s all theory for me at this point as well. My daughter is 2! But I think I’ll be going with an ongoing dialogue about it – informing of all the risks/health/legal issues, but allow a certain level of experimenting without jumping off the deep end.

    Full disclosure – in addition to alcohol and my former pack-a-day smoking habit I’ve tried Pot and Speed. But recreational drug use never suited me. I’d fall asleep after a joint and like I need my thoughts to be going any faster than they already do.

  7. Duly noted good sir.

    (I worte a much longer, way TMI reply assenting and disclosing but it got swallowed and I’m not re-writing it now. Memo to self: copy comments before hitting post on blogs, you never know!)

  8. Great post Chris, you know I’ve been waiting for this one.

    Ok – me. I was one of those super good girls. At the same time I always felt a certain level of freedom – probably afforded me because I *was* a good kid. My mum used to say, “I don’t care what you do just don’t lie to me about it.” Subsequently drink, cigarettes and drugs were never hugely alluring. Meh. Whatever. But girlfriends with stricter parents would come to our house cos they knew my mum was more relaxed and would let them drink etc.

    But…. always a but. I do also think that I was a bit affected by a film I saw when I was about 8. It was called The Death of Richie and was about a kid on drugs. This is the 70s right? That shit was scary for a kid. I swear it stopped me touching anything. Maybe. I just remember being freaked out. But I guess other parts of my personality played a role in my relatively straight stance for most of my life. Do I regret being so straight? Well, reading about all your fun times,maybe I do a little. But as one of the commenters here said – perhaps it is a middle-class luxury. I didn’t really have a soft place to land so in the interests of self-preservation I took a wide berth. The families in our neigbourhood were many kinds of messed up. I was so NOT going there.

    However, at 21 I met a particular soulmate. I started smoking pot. Really enjoyed it. But srsly – two leaf cones before bed? Was like a nightly glass of red IMO. (and of course hash all over Europe together but that’s another story ;)). When we broke up the next guy was a true pothead with major issues. Turned me off that shit for life.

    And so reading your post I wonder what happens to those parents who haven’t got super cool drug experiences to share. (Also, can I just say – you should go into recreational drug marketing or somesuch cos after reading this I seriously felt like getting wasted. Of course, I think you told me once that I should NEVER take coke. )

    And I do still think that, while you may not have a talk with this much depth while your girls are younger, the topic will possibly come up beforehand. It has with mine – but then we have a quite self-destructive drug addicted family member, so there has been cause to explain the whole thing in age appropriate terms. Yes, drugs can destroy lives. I’ve seen it first hand, but I also think that your advice here is super wise. I think I’ll use it myself.

    Can you publish it up on a handy fridge magnet and distribute it amongst the Twitterverse? kthx

    (And btw – don’t we all know that the first rule of parenting is whatever you think is gonna happen, it’s gonna be the opposite? I was never going to have spiderman in my house ffs. Now I’m the world’s leading advocate for boys and superhero play. None of us knows shit really. 😉 )

    Nice work O captain my captain. x

    1. OK, so advice part one is find some scarey arse drug death movie to freak out nine year olds – I can do that.

      Just a quick point – no chance I’m ‘sharing’ my ‘super-cool drug’ stories with my girls. They’ll never hear a word before they are thirty or something and we’re all over the drugs and having a laugh.

      I love your point about what do parents who were straight do? To be honest, I hadn’t really thought about them. Ummmm… hope? Non-drug parents can probably spot most of it.

      They should watch this awesome video to pick up hints. This dude like rainbows.

      And don’t take coke: John Birmingham writes about that shit – no, not the minor drug use throughout ‘felafal’ – more the alternate universe creating events in his more recent books. The sun would explode.

  9. Great article. Really enjoyed it, and I have wondered about that coversation since the other day my son (6) asked me what sex was…

    The only thing I would add to the coversation is words from jello Biafra – take drugs, learn from them what you can, and stop. If you can’t stop, you have a problem

    Also like the advice re injecting. You can’t vomit what you have put in your veins

  10. That was a freaking brilliant read. To be honest, this is not something i’ve given thought to in terms of my own kids- God knows how much will change before they hit the age for it- but I am a harm-minimilisationist, all the way. Respect.

  11. What an amazing post…don’t think I’d attempt it, but you pulled it off in your signature AnIdleDad style. Still unsure how I’ll approach the subject with my young boys, but think I should bookmark this now for some pointers on how to be honest without wilting.

  12. Nice post. To be honest I haven’t really thought too much about broaching the topic of drugs with my kids, as they are 3 and 11 months, so am kind of still enjoying this early childhood bliss bubble. But of course it will come up.

    I won’t disclose too much of my past, but let’s just say I’m was an adventurous, free-spirit who travelled the world on one-way tickets for 9 years. Some memorable moments include having a 2 hour conversation with an anchor on a beach in Colombia; being woken up on a bus at the Malaysian border with no clue how I got there (with only my passport and a bag of wet laundry), a hospital stay in the Philippines with a dodgy kidney, and a free nights accommodation at a local lockup in a Brazilian jungle town. These are just some highlights. Others I wouldn’t dare share with the world (well, at least sober:))

    I also won’t say how or why these things happened, but ever since I was pregnant with my first child all my conversations are with people (myself included), the only wet laundry I carry is to the clothes line, my hospital stays have involved giving birth, and the closest I have got to a jail cell is playing Monopoly.

    So what will I tell my kids? God knows. But maybe not my travel highlights… 😛

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