Would you find it hard to believe that the four-year-old down the street had been referred to a substance abuse programme for alcohol and drugs? If so, you might not understand the depth of the drug and alcohol problem in the UK. The four-year-old is not a fictional illustration; the child is a real individual who was referred to drug rehab in Ayrshire, Scotland.

Elsewhere, the NHS recently reported two children from Bury and Rochdale were treated for substance abuse in Liverpool. Both were a mere 10 years of age. Stories of children being hooked on drugs and alcohol are becoming far too frequent all across the country. If nothing else, it underscores the fact that current anti-drug and alcohol abuse programmes are not working. We need to do a better job of educating both families and children about drugs and alcohol.

What Needs to Be Heard

Most of our efforts to date have been focused on warning individuals of the pitfalls of drug and alcohol abuse. Moreover, while this type of information is certainly helpful from a preventative standpoint, it only goes so far. The main problem with warning people lies in the fact that they think such warnings only apply to others. Most of us live in the belief that such bad things will never happen to us.

So where do we go from here? Drug and alcohol education needs to be expanded to include the following:

  • Parental Identification – Parents need to learn how to identify the early warning signs suggesting a child will eventually end up using drugs or alcohol. These early warning signs can be identified long before the child begins drinking or smoking. These include antisocial behaviours that appear persistent in the toddler years.
  • Parental Example – More important than identifying early warning signs is the reality that parental example is one of the strongest influences in a child’s life. If children witness their parents drinking heavily on a regular basis for example, they are much more likely to pick up the habit themselves. Parents need to understand that every action they take encourages a similar action in their own offspring.
  • Underlying Motivations – Another essential part of the equation are those underlying motivations that cause children to begin drinking or taking drugs. We need to figure out what is missing that would cause a child to even consider such behaviour. Is it a lack of hope? Is it the lack of a moral compass? Whatever the motivations, these need to be uncovered and included as part of preventative training.

It’s not enough for us to continue to offer drug and alcohol training as we always have in the hopes that kids will learn and make the right decisions. Clearly it is not working. The UK is the drug addiction capital of Europe, with a prolific alcohol and opiate problem. Throw the increasingly popular ‘legal highs’ into the equation and it becomes clear that matters are much worse than many of us care to admit.

Getting Help for Your Child

If your child is exhibiting early warning signs of possible alcohol or drug abuse, you do not have time to wait. You need to seek help for that child right away. If you don’t know what to do, contact your GP, a school official, or a local drug and alcohol charity.

If your child is well beyond early warning signs, you already have a serious problem to contend with. Please know that there are treatments available through the NHS, local charities, support groups, and private rehab clinics. Teenagers and drug addiction are two things that should not, but sometimes do go together. Seek help if you have concerns.

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