Health

Saturday 2 August 2014

My 18-year-old blames me for his drug-taking

I am extremely worried about my 18-year-old son, who I recently found out is smoking hash on a very regular basis. I found out through reading his text messages, so he could deny nothing, but he has the attitude that it's no big deal.

He insists that he doesn't smoke as much as the messages made out and that he is going to stop.

He says it's my fault that he is rebelling, because I always did too much for him!

I know myself I am strict and always used to question who he was with and where he was if he was out. It took him a long time to make new friends when he went to secondary school.

When he did eventually meet up with a nice bunch, he also met another gang through the band he started to play with. I think he got into smoking drugs with them.

He says he is not stupid enough to start taking anything heavier but, as far as I am concerned, he has already taken the first step in the wrong direction.

His dad and I split up before he was born and the relationship between us has not been good.

He is very close to his dad but he is more of a friend to him than a parent so I just feel I have no back-up whatsoever. What can I do?

I can imagine that the situation you find yourself in is increasingly common for parents around the country.

Hash and weed, the two most common forms of the cannabis plant, are easily available and are becoming an expected part of teenage life.

By way of explanation, hash or hashish is the name for a block of cannabis resin. Hash is created by harvesting the trichomes, or little sticky hairs on the plant, and then compressing them into a hard block, or paste, of cannabis resin.

Cannabis, in this hash form, tends to be more potent than the dried leaves and seeds of the plant. It is the dried leaves and seeds that are known as weed, dope, grass, pot, among other names.

No matter how the cannabis is prepared (dried or resin), the most common way to use cannabis is to smoke it.

So, 'weed' gets rolled into a cigarette-shaped joint, using tobacco papers, either as pure dried cannabis or is added to some tobacco.

Hash typically gets crumbled and mixed into some tobacco and rolled into a joint.

Alternatively, it can be smoked in a pipe or a bong (where the smoke is bubbled through water).

I'd guess that you have been very upset and scared since discovering that your son is smoking hash.

You may feel disappointed with him, or even with yourself. Many parents in similar situations feel like they have failed in some way, as a parent.

The manner in which you found him out, by reading his personal, and I assume private, texts suggests that you don't trust him. I wonder how much he trusts you in return. You also mention that your son seems to think that you have been over-protective of him.

Perhaps you have been protective, but no matter how you have interacted in the past, this is certainly your opportunity to engage with him in a very adult manner now.

I think it is very fair for you to be explicit about your feelings and opinions about drug use. Be very clear about the extent to which you can or will tolerate his use of drugs. Get support for yourself, perhaps from a site like www.drugs.ie.

I think it is fair for you to set the ground rules in relation to him continuing to live in your house. If that means no hash is allowed to be stored or used there then that is very fair.

Outside of your house, however, your son is officially an adult. That means he can, and must, take responsibility for what he does. It also means he can choose to smoke hash if he wants.

What you can help him with, however, is to be really clear about the possible consequences of that behaviour for him. Those consequences may range from headaches, anxiety, lethargy and lack of motivation, right though to arrest and prosecution for possession of illegal substances.

But, mostly, you can encourage him to make wise choices and to take full responsibility for all of those choices, particularly the unwise ones. Drug debts, trouble with the gardai, poor performance in school, college or the workplace are all, entirely, the potential problems of his own making.

Irish Independent

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