The brazen use of drugs amongst teenagers is becoming a common sight within our local communities. They no longer feel the need to skulk behind rundown buildings out of sight as I did during my early twenties. There is no fear of detection, no deterrent nowadays. How has this habit managed to slip into the parameters of normal behaviour?
According to a survey by the European monitoring centre for drugs and drug addiction, 2 in 5, 15-year-olds in the UK have tried cannabis. This number is higher than anywhere else in Europe. A national survey conducted by NHS Digital, found that 24% of 11 to 15-year-olds say they have tried recreational drugs at least once in their lives. It is more likely than smoking. When NHS digital assessed 5 to 19-year-olds in 2017, 1 in 8 had at least one mental disorder. With this in mind shouldn’t we be more concerned?
Recently, I took my 7-year-old daughter to our local playground. At one end a baby squealed with excitement while being pushed on the swing, at the other, a 17-year-old sobbed uncontrollably whilst puffing on a joint. It was 5:25 p.m. and broad daylight. Another group of teenagers turned up a few minutes later and started to pass something round. I was shocked at their brazenness. Surely I wasn’t the only adult to notice this. I concluded that they must be ignoring it or are we all so desensitized to it, that it is now a scene we class as normal?
The teenage years are vital to healthy cognitive functions as an adult. Drug abuse can prevent proper growth and development later in life. Substance abuse can interfere with some of the neurotransmitters and damage connections within the brain. This can reduce the ability to experience pleasure. If children lose the ability to experience pleasure from normal everyday activities the use of antidepressants will surely become ever more present.
I understand that part of being a teenager is all about experimenting and curiosity. I also have a teenage son and he is certainly making the most of trying out new things. We have open discussions about his experiences, some of which are highly alarming and require me to use every muscle in my body to keep calm. I wrongly believed that being a parent was meant to get easier the older they got! How wrong I was. We’ve just applied for his provisional driving licence which will bring a new level of worry with it.
The fact that some teenagers are taking drugs in public places, is an indication that they are blatantly unaware they are doing anything wrong. If we as adults don’t step in aren’t we reinforcing this?
I couldn’t stop staring at the girl who was sobbing and as she dropped to the floor for the third time like a sack of potatoes, she giggled. My daughter was climbing up the slide and I considered what I’d tell her if she asked me what was wrong with the girl. I decided I would tell her the truth.
I wanted to go over to them, to ask them what they were smoking. I was also keen to speak to the ones who weren’t partaking, to ask them why, but I was unsure about how they’d react. Back home, I was annoyed that I hadn’t approached them. Hadn’t I, as an adult, just condoned their behaviour by not challenging it?