The choice to try drugs is yours alone, but that doesn't mean you have to make the decision all on your own. Having the support of friends, family or community members can help you to make more sensible choices.
Sometimes drugs can seem like a tough issue to bring up, but talking to other people about it openly and honestly can help give you some perspective on the topic. Similarly, by educating yourself and having the courage to talk about drugs with others, you might be able to share your own valuable knowledge on the subject with others. Ask questions, speak up, use your voice!
Sometimes it might feel like there is nobody you can trust with your questions or problems. Always remember that no matter how big the problem may seem, or how embarrassing you think your question is, there is always somebody you can talk to, even if it is a complete stranger on a teen hotline. If you don't want to talk to your parents, your friends or other people in your life, check the Ask Questions, Get Help section for toll-free hotlines and other resources that can lend you an ear and if you want, help with your problems and questions.
In this section, you will find:
- Tips for talking to your friends about drugs
- Tips for talking to your parents about drugs
- Tips for talking about drugs in society and drug policy
Talking to your Friends about Drugs
Peers and friends can often be very influential in our lives. Sometimes it feels like friends are the only people who can help and support you when you're dealing with tough issues. Similarly, we all have friends whom we would do anything to help. When it comes to drugs, both you and your friends have a lot of tough choices to make. The best way to support each other as you face these choices is to be open, honest and educated. Talking about drugs with your friends in this way can help you and your friends deal with:
The Decision to Use Drugs or Not
- Although the choice to use drugs or not is a personal one, you and your friends can help each other make sensible choices.
- Educate yourself about the effects of different drugs, the risks associated with drug use, the risks associated with specific drugs and ways to limit or deal with those risks.
- Encourage your friends to do the same. If you and your friends are educated and open with each other, you can help each other make sensible choices about drug use, and also help each other.
- Chances are, one or more of your friends is feeling the same way, and you can help each other come up with creative and effective ways to deal with peer pressure.
Recognizing and Addressing Problematic Drug Use
- If you or any of your friends has used drugs, being educated and open about your use means that you and your friends can recognize the appearance of any problematic drug use or risk-taking behaviour in each other and talk about it in a positive and supportive way.
Talking to your Parents, Guardians, or Trusted Adults about Drugs
Sometimes talking to other people your age about drugs isn't enough, but at the same time, talking to parents or other adults can seem too intimidating or scary. It might not be as easy to be honest and open about drugs with your parents or other adults as it is with your friends.
As hard as it may be to imagine sometimes, your parents and other adults in your life have been in your shoes and have faced some of the same choices and pressures that you’re facing now. Opening up to them about problems you’re dealing with, or asking them any questions you may have could provide you with the answers you need, or at least give you a new perspective.
It might seem that you and your parents are from different planets, but you might have more in common than you think. Most parents just want to make sure their kids are safe and healthy, and for their kids to at least consider their views and values when making life decisions.
Parents aren’t perfect. Sometimes it seems like they have irrational ways of showing they care about you. For example, some parents might get upset when they realize you are starting to think about drugs and other big issues, but if you approach them knowledgeably, openly and respectfully, it can make it easier to reach a common level of understanding.
Tips for talking to your parents, guardians or other trusted adults:
- Think before you talk - plan out what you want to say or ask and think about the best way to approach them with it. Think about the goal of your conversation and try to anticipate how your parents will respond. Think about how you will convey your message in a positive way, and how you could react if your parents choose to respond negatively.
- Hear the message behind their words – Your parents might choose upsetting or confusing ways to convey their main concern of not wanting you to get hurt. Your conversation won’t be very helpful if you react negatively, so try to hear the message behind their negative words and respond to that instead.
- Change your communication patterns if they are not working – You and your parents might get stuck in a communication pattern that just isn’t working for either of you.
- Even if you want to talk to them, they want to ignore the issue, or vice versa. One of you thinks: “If I don’t talk about it, it won't happen!"
- One of you gets so caught up in a point of view that you can’t see the other’s view on things. It becomes like talking to a brick wall and no one gets anywhere.
- One of you starts blaming the other, and the other starts blaming back. The blame game goes round and round and nothing gets resolved.
- Fear. Your parents are afraid of something bad happening to you because of a bad decision, so they might think they can make your decisions for you without having a discussion about it. You might be afraid of what your parents will think if you tell them certain things, so you avoid talking to them about it.
You might not get the help you need from your parents/guardians no matter how hard you try to talk with them about tough issues like drugs. Don’t give up on your quest for an honest discussion about drugs, some help with a problem you’re facing or an answer to an important question. Think about other people you trust who you might be able to turn to (teachers, counsellors, coaches, older siblings or cousins, aunts and uncles, family friends etc). No matter what, remember that there is always someone to talk to, some way to get your question answered honestly and openly.
Talking about Drugs in our Society and Drug Policy
As you learn more about drugs, and talk to people honestly about them, you might start to also think about the way drugs are dealt with, by the law, and by society.
- Why do we put drug users and addicts in jail, instead of helping them deal with their problems?
- Why do most drug education programs try to scare you from drugs, instead of talking about them honestly?
- Why is there so little information for young people if they’re using drugs?
- Why are some people so quick to judge drug users?
- Why are some drugs legal and some illegal? Who benefits from this?
- Why are some illegal drugs also used as medication?
Check out some of the websites below which are dedicated to examining the advantages, disadvantages and inconsistencies in Canada's drug policies and laws. The biggest disadvantage by far is that drugs are treated as a scary subject that can’t be talked about without lots of judgment attached to the conversation. By educating yourself and being open and honest with others about drugs, drug use and drug policy you can help create a more positive dialogue around drugs – one that doesn’t rely primarily on fear, contradictions and negative judgments to make a point. If you begin to question Canadian drug policy and the way the government chooses to educate Canadian youth about drugs, consider getting involved in the movement that is trying to change these things. Remember that most drug policy is put forward in the name of youth. If you don’t feel that you are being represented in Canadian drug policy, use your voice to say "Not in my name!"
- Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) - "CSSDP provides education and resources to empower chapters formed by students and youth in their work on substance use issues facing their peer groups and communities.
CSSDP’s International Partners include:
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)- "An international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society." Based in the USA.
- Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK (SSDPUK) - "mobilizes and empowers young people to participate in the political process, pushing for sensible policies to achieve a safer and more just future, while fighting back against counterproductive Drug War policies, particularly those that directly harm students and youth." Based in the United Kingdom
- Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) - "We envision new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights and a just society in which the fears, prejudices and punitive prohibitions of today are no more."
- Safety First - "A project of the Drug Policy Alliance, provides resources for parents, educators and students who are interested in reality-based approaches to drug education that stress the health, safety and well-being of young people."
- YouthRISE - "Resources.Information.Support.Education for reducing drug-related harm"
- Talking Drugs - "A space for sharing stories about drugs."
- Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) - "LEAP is made up of current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities who are speaking out about the failures of our existing drug policies."
- Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) - "Supporting psychedelic and medical marijuana research since 1986. Our mission is 1) to treat conditions for which conventional medicines provide limited relief—such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain, drug dependence, anxiety and depression associated with end-of-life issues—by developing psychedelics and marijuana into prescription medicines; 2) to cure many thousands of people by building a network of clinics where treatments can be provided; and 3) to educate the public honestly about the risks and benefits of psychedelics and marijuana."
- The Media Awareness Project (MAP) - "A worldwide network dedicated to drug policy reform. We inform public opinion and promote balanced media coverage."