Tuesday 6 December 2016

Irish teenager who first did ecstasy in third year: 'Most schools have dealers amongst students'

Drugs terrify parents, yet they are one of the more temptingly risk-taking and rebel-making aspects of growing up for many young people, says 20-year-old Louis Furney, who here writes about his own experiences

Louis Furney

Published 22/08/2016 | 02:30

Louis Furney said there should be better education about drugs for teenagers in Ireland
Louis Furney said there should be better education about drugs for teenagers in Ireland
A scene from the movie 'Human Traffic' which features young people in dead-end jobs who cut loose with drug-fuelled weekends

You're not going to like this but my view as a young adult, admittedly one who hasn't been too shy of new experiences, is that it is not a question of if, but when your child will be exposed to the big bad world of contraband. Exactly when, where or to what they will be exposed is different in each case but the main drugs available are cannabis, ecstasy, MDMA, hallucinogens, magic mushrooms and cocaine. Heroin is out there too but to most people who would consider themselves recreational drug users, it is a line not to be crossed.

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I turned 20 a few months ago and realise that the combination of being a curious young boy and having the foresight of a wet carrot meant that I exposed myself to things rather young. I was always curious about drugs. I don't know why exactly, perhaps just because it was new and exciting. My first attempt at buying them was in second year when I heard a guy in my school could sort weed. Not all schools have dealers among the students but anecdotally I would say that most do. Or someone in school knows someone who knows someone, an older sibling, friend of a friend, basically initial drug access is rarely if ever a shadowy stranger. I did a bit of research on the internet about weed, liked the sound of it brought in the money the next day. Sorted. Or so I thought. At €25 a gram it was the most expensive bit of oregano I have bought to date. Nevertheless the intention was still there and this only worsened my curiosity.

Soon after and somewhat wiser, I got my hands on some real contacts and got the real deal which started a semi poisonous love affair. I say 'semi' because I genuinely believe weed is the safest way to intoxicate yourself if you so wish. I would much prefer my kids to be going out getting stoned than getting their stomach pumped after trying to down a naggin in a field. That being said, nothing fun in life is free and I paid the price for over-indulgence. I'm not talking itchy blood and cold sweats, but a lack of motivation, and with all the hormones flying around my young body I don't think the heavy usage helped my train of thought or mood swings too much, and I probably could have done a bit better in school. Cannabis is not chemically addictive, but I think it can be psychologically addictive, you do start to look forward to it, to tell yourself you need it to relax or to sleep. It also made for a lot of fights with my parents.

My first taste of the harder stuff came around the end of third year. I had started getting my weed off a different guy and he offered me some ecstasy. Again I did my research. One of my first DJ concerts with my friends was coming up so I thought, why not? You hear the horror stories but when you're young you don't think things like that will ever happen to you. The part of the brain associated with risk assessment isn't fully developed until you're in your twenties. So as a teenager, anxious not to be a kid anymore, with lots to prove and a poor judge of what you have to lose, drugs, especially ones like ecstasy or MDMA that give you an amazing sense of well-being, seem like a no brainer. And frankly at a tenner a pill, cheaper if we bought a few, along with the fact that we didn't need ID to buy them made it seem like a better option than trying to buy and sneak in a load of drink. I know you should be able to enjoy yourself sober, but how many adults do?

Being the smooth criminal that I was I got caught and I got one hell of an ass-whooping, metaphorically speaking, that kept me away for a while. But I soon reached the age of going to festivals and clubs where drugs is the norm. My passion for uncontrolled substances was reignited and it is where many people's are born. Note that each environment is different and also that just because your kid is going to festivals and clubs does not by any means mean they are doing drugs. Some people never do. Anyone looking to find a dealer just need ask every third bloke in a bucket hat, but more likely he'll find you (and it is almost always men), he's bound to ask you at least three times as he powers through the gaps of the dance floor, "You lookin' for any yokes?" There is huge business in "yokes", Ireland is the second highest consumer of ecstasy in the world.

My parents never particularly tried to keep me away from the real world but instead tried to educate me through things. I think they would have preferred that I didn't try any drugs but they were realistic. The message was that if I was going to do it, to be careful. Educate myself about the real risks not just vague ones. That was important because particularly being the type of teen I was, nothing they could have said would have stopped me, but what they said stopped me being totally foolish.

Ultimately I believe there is not much a parent, or indeed the Government can do to stop people using drugs. This is why I strongly believe in educating people how to go about drugs safely and giving them the tools to ensure it. There should be drug testing kits at festivals or in clubs, sometimes the main problem is not the drugs themselves, it's the knock off alternatives such as PMMA, added into ecstasy pills to imitate MDMA as it is cheaper and more easily obtained. Much higher quantities are required and the chemical itself has a far bigger red zone so it is far more dangerous.

Ignorance can prove lethal and as long as drugs are outside the law they remain a real health threat. There's a reluctance to teach kids anything but "Drugs Are Bad", a lesson which clearly is not working.

Illegality also means there is no quality control and no age limit, dealers don't ask for ID. And it is worth noting that no-one, anywhere, ever has managed to eradicate drug use but the only places in the world where it is actually declining are countries like Portugal which have decriminalised it.

Not all teenagers try drugs. But many do. Educate them and just as importantly as parents, educate yourselves. It's been proven time and time again through countless different situations, if you really want to do right by people, you must work with them not against them. Help them help themselves.

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