Drugs: a parent’s guide

Two of my children are drug users. My eldest son Paul, 28, tried
drugs as most kids do but gave them up. My younger son Tom, 26, is
in prison for a drug-related crime. My daughter, Angel, was a
heroin addict when she was 17. Now 23, she is recovering with the
help of counselling and methadone.

I worried about my children. I felt helpless and cut off, unable to
talk to anybody, especially family. At the time, I was doing a work
placement at the Southmead drugs project in Bristol. The manager
suggested I needed a counsellor – and my counsellor was just
starting a parents’ group.

I was nervous meeting other parents, expecting a room full of
strangers. I would have to face facts – and talk about them. We met
in a small lounge in a church hall. There were only six people
there – one couple, a few mums on their own and a grandmother. The
outreach worker and counsellor put us at ease.

We learned about tough love and co-dependence – the way parents can
focus on their children’s needs and put their own lives on one
side. Parents of drug users tend to be secretive, and become
depressed and lonely. Our children scheme how to get money from us,
and many steal from their family because they are so desperate for
drug money.

By talking about problems with other parents we have found new ways
to handle difficult situations. It is not our fault our children
take drugs. We can be more help to them if we think better of
ourselves. Every week we have a discussion on a different topic
like looking at addiction and its effects, our own experiences
within the family, or what drugs look like.

At one meeting a local police officer brought a case full of drugs.
He showed us what each one looked like and described how it was
used. He showed us the makeshift equipment (such as cans and
tinfoil) addicts use. We learned about needles and their dangers to
health. We found out about overdoses, HIV and rogue batches of

The officer showed us cards printed with different drugs and asked
which was the most dangerous. Surprise, surprise – it was alcohol.
It causes more deaths than anything else. Cigarettes were well up
the list, too.

At the group we learn so much. We’ve become stronger people. I can
talk about my experiences without being afraid people will look
down their noses at me. Listening to other people has helped me to
look at my own behaviour.

There should be more parents’ groups. Addicts receive help, but the
family is often left to get on with it. With more help to
understand what is going on, parents are in the best position to
help their children if they become involved with drugs. Too many
parents just can’t bear to think what their kids are up to.

Anne White (not her real name) is a single parent.

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