Pubdate: Sun, 30 May 2004
Source: Times Of Malta (Malta)
Copyright: 2004 Allied Newspapers Limited
Author: Valerie Borg
Bookmark: (Youth)


Be alert not suspicious. This is the classic advice for parents and other 
adults regarding drug abuse. It goes without saying that a warm, confident 
rapport between parents and children is important, but this is not enough.

One agonised Maltese parent told me: "Before drugs reached our family I 
thought that parents' not noticing their child's abuse was because 
something in the family was lacking - bad relations, indifference and the 
absence of love. Looking back, I have to admit that my son showed many 
signs of abuse. But I saw them as signs of adolescence and liberation, 
signs that my son was seeking an identity and ideas of his own. He did - in 
the world of drugs".

Teenagers' first experiments with drugs usually take place when they feel 
they are avoiding control by adults. But if your child appreciates the 
positive effects of dope, an active period, similar to a love story, may start.

Then you can notice the early signs of abuse. In most cases, the 
youngster's experiments with drugs have been going on for longer than you 
think or your child will admit. You can never trust a child who says it was 
the first time or the last time.

If we notice our teenagers' use of drugs at an early age, we can save them 
from abuse. We can also break off the spreading of drugs between young people.

The first stage of drug abuse is easy to conceal. We parents think that by 
denying our child is in danger we actually help him. The reason for this 
denial is our will to trust our teenage children along with the fear and 
feeling of guilt and shame that appears with the suspicion of abuse.

Parents often get so frightened that their denial is a proper psychological 
protection. Most of us want "proof" before acting. But in most cases 
parents never see the narcotics or their child under their influence. If 
you ask some teenagers whether they or their friends use or have tried 
drugs the great majority of them answer No. They don't want to "betray" 
their friends. They stand up for the drug - the new toy or even the new love.

Can you see the following signs in your child? If so, beware:

Often borrowing money; things keep disappearing from your home; they are 
"never" at home; there are new friends you don't know; they cannot be 
reached - confidential chats no longer exist.

They have contempt for old friends, interests, family and school. They are 
inert and downhearted. The white of their eye gets reddish and they often 
sniffle. They are often thirsty or hungry for sweets. They sleep badly, 
have nightmares and play truant from school or work.

The worst thing you can do is to do nothing at all. At an early stage drug 
abuse is not too hard to cope with. But if you wait, the problems will grow 
into crises and conflicts. Be open-hearted and frank with the youngsters; 
trust in your determination to intervene if necessary.

Share your problems with Caritas or Sedqa - your collaboration with people 
who can help is crucial. Rely on your intuition, love and common sense. 
Dare being open and uncomfortable with your child. Drugs are never a part 
of a natural development, only a part of the development into an addict.

Ms Valerie Borg,

Valletta councillor, Valletta.
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