Drug use is common in Australia. The teenage years are when many people begin to experiment with drugs. Most substance use will not become a problem, but some young people will go on to develop problems or even long-term dependence.
Excessive use of drugs can lead to serious difficulties for the drug user. These may include physical and mental health problems, damage to relationships, issues with work or study, or financial and legal problems.
Families of young people with serious drug use issues often suffer enormously from the strain of trying to deal with their child's behaviour. Families can benefit a great deal from the support of professionals who can help them to understand and cope with the impact of drug use on their child and the rest of the family. Drug-users themselves also benefit when families are better equipped to deal with the issues.
The help sheets in this section will help you understand the effects of drug use, why your young person may be using drugs and how to help them.
Tell Me About Drugs
A drug is any substance that can be used to modify a chemical process or processes in the body to treat an illness, relieve a symptom, enhance a performance or ability, or to alter a state of mind.
Why Do Young People Use Drugs?
Approximately one third of young people aged 14-19 years have tried an illegal drug in their lifetime, and one in five have used an illegal drug recently. Although experimentation can be dangerous, research shows experimentation does not necessarily lead on to having a 'drug problem' or 'drug addiction'.
Why Does My Child Use Drugs?
There is usually no clear-cut reason why any one person ends up with a drug problem. A combination of many factors is more likely to make a person at risk of drug abuse.
Why Don't They See it as a Problem?
It is normal for a person to have mixed feelings about their drug use, to sometimes want to keep using and to sometimes want to give up. It is helpful to think that each time a person tries to make changes, they learn something from the experience, and they may be one step closer to a sustained recovery.
Other Drug Related Behaviours
Drug use may make a young person behave in particular ways, such as moodiness, irritability or violence. When someone is using drugs, it is common for them to lie about their level of drug use and other things in their lives or to create an alternative reality.
What Else Can I Do?
You cannot make someone stop using drugs. There are things you can do, however, which may influence them positively and which will help you to cope with the situation a lot better.
Alcohol and Other Drug Services for Families
Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Treatment Services aim to address either the physical or psychological aspects of drug dependence. Generalist counselling services and youth support services will usually also help people with AOD difficulties and their families and friends.
"One hundred metres into the park, my grandson sat on a bench. He sprayed paint into plastic bags he had collected at the fruit and veg section, placed the bag over his mouth and quickly inhaled the fumes until he was off his face. I cried as I watched him destroying himself."