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How to talk about

Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs and Alcohol

In 2017 the NSPCC revealed it deals with an average of almost 1 call every hour focusing on drugs and alcohol.

It is against the law for under 18 year olds to buy alcohol or ask anyone else to buy them alcohol.

But sometimes, they do get hold of it, as well as drugs.


What are the signs my child is drinking or taking drugs?

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence has this advice for parents:

Physical changes:

  • yes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal
  • Frequent nosebleeds (a sign of meth or cocaine use)
  • Altered appetite and sleep patterns – also extreme weight loss or gain
  • Seizures (with no prior history of epilepsy)
  • Deterioration in physical appearance and personal grooming
  • Impaired coordination, with injuries or bruises of unknown origin
  • Unusually bad breath or body odor
  • Tremors, shakes, incoherent speech, and impaired coordination

Emotional changes:

  • Unexplained and even confusing change in personality and attitude
  • Sudden, extreme mood swings, such as irritability, angry outbursts, or even laughing at nothing
  • Sustained periods of hyperactivity or agitation
  • A marked lack of motivation and an inability to focus
  • General lethargy to daily tasks
  • Withdrawn behavior
  • Anxiety or paranoia with no apparent cause
  • Repeated dishonesty
  • A loss of interest in the family

Social changes:

  • Skipping class, lower grades, or getting in trouble at university
  • A marked loss of interest in social activities, hobbies, exercise, or sports
  • Decreased motivation to go out
  • Complaints of unusual behavior from friends, classmates, and co-workers
  • Clashes with family values and beliefs
  • A sudden change in friendships, relationships, and chosen hobbies
  • Isolated, withdrawn, or sullen behavior
  • Secretive and suspicious behavior around friends and family
  • Sudden requests for money from family members (or even stealing)
  • Obsession with drug or alcohol paraphernalia
  • Drinking increasing amounts of alcohol in a social setting

How do I talk to my child about drugs and alcohol?

  • From an early age talk about the risks of drugs and alcohol


    Children are inquisitive, so it's likely they'll ask you lots of questions. But talking about alcohol early can prevent your child binge drinking in their late teens.

    It's better to have a few, brief conversations over time. Try not to lecture your child. Just saying it's bad and not for children won't stop them taking risks.

  • Ask them what they know. Make sure they:

    1. understand what the effects are
    2. know how much is too much to drink
    3. know the law around drinking

    It's important to try to be a good role model in front of your children. If they see you drinking heavily, they could be encouraged to take risks.

  • It's inevitable that your child will be offered alcohol at some point. But there are things you can do to prepare them:

    1. ask them what they'd do in this situation
    2. tell them there's a link between alcohol, anti-social behaviour and sexual activity - and how they can keep themselves safe by drinking in moderation
    3. make them aware of the risk of drinks being spiked and how to keep themselves and friends safe
    4. see more guidance from Drink Aware and Family Lives.

  • If your teenager is going out with friends and you think they may be drinking:

    1. set a curfew for when they should be back
    2. discuss how they'll be getting home
    3. keep in contact, making sure you both have enough phone battery, credit and reception
    4. if possible make sure they eat something substantial before they go
    5. make sure your child knows what to do if they or a friend become unwell or put themselves in danger.

  • Read Frank's glossary of drugs which includes their slang names, effects, risk and the law

  • It can be difficult to know how and when to start if you’re worried they are abusing a substance

    Try having brief, open and relaxed conversations

  • Use cues such as drug issues happening on TV, in the media or Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) projects at school to start a conversation

  • Try to stay calm even if it is upsetting to find out, try not to get angry as it could prevent them opening up in the future

  • Remind them you still love them and will not be angry – you want to help them get better

  • Let them know of other support services which are available if they don’t want to talk to you. See our list below 

(Source: NSPCC)


Where can I get help?

  • Refer your child for local support and treatment services
  • Refer them for counselling
  • A doctor may be able to refer your child on to treatment services and offer support to you or other family members
  • Talk to Frank; for help tackling substance abuse visit the website, use the online chat or call 0300 123 6600
  • Use Drinkline; a confidential helpline for anyone concerned about drinking on 0300 123 1110
  • There's further advice on the NSPCC website


© Produced by Adele Norris in association with Eagle Radio