Talking about drugs with your child

It can be difficult to talk about drugs with your kids. Use these tips to help you talk openly with your child.

Drugs help and information

Call the FRANK helpline on 0300 123 6600 for more information about drugs and the different options available for help and support. The confidential helpline is open every day, 24 hours a day.

1. Do your homework about drugs

Make sure you understand enough about drugs, including why your child might experiment with them, so you can talk to your child in an informed way. Understanding the facts about drugs will also help you keep calm in a crisis.
Get your information from reliable, credible sources such as the drugs website FRANK.

2. Pick a good time

Don’t do it before they rush off to school. Or, if they are using drugs, don’t confront them when they’re high on drugs.

3. Take opportunities to talk as they arise

It may help to do it when the subject comes up during TV programmes or in the news. Mealtimes can also be a good forum for discussion.

4. Let them know your values and boundaries

It’s important for your children to know where you stand on drug taking. Be clear about your opinions on drugs so that they know your boundaries.

5. It’s never too early to talk about drugs

It’s a good idea to start talking about the issue before they start experimenting with drugs. Make them feel strong and independent enough to be able to say no.

6. Avoid scare tactics

Your teenage children often know more people who take drugs than you do, so there’s no point in saying, “Smoking cannabis will kill you”. But if you point out that cannabis can cause mental health problems and make people forgetful and unmotivated, that will seem realistic to them and be more of a deterrent.

7. Know their friends

Peer pressure is the single most powerful factor in determining whether or not your child will take drugs. Get to know their friends. Invite them to the house and take an interest in what’s going on in their lives. If you have good reason to think your child’s friends are involved in drugs, you may need to support your child to find a new circle of friends.

8. Let them know you’re always there for them

That way they can be honest with you about what they’re up to and they won't just tell you what they think you want to hear.

9. Listen as well as talk

Talking to teenagers can be hard. When you're discussing drugs, don’t preach or give a speech and don’t make assumptions about what they know or do. Let your child tell you about his or her experiences. It’s often easier not to talk face-to-face, but to have a conversation side-by-side, such as when you’re driving in the car, washing up together or preparing food.

10. Persevere

Don’t be provoked or put off talking if they argue, get embarrassed or storm off. Parents’ opinions matter to their children. Revisit the subject when they’ve calmed down.

11. Make sure they know they are responsible for their actions.

You’re trying to help your child make good choices in life about drugs. But only they can say no to drugs. Be sure they know you support them, but emphasise that it's up to them to make positive decisions.

12. Be realistic

It’s common for teenagers to experiment with drugs. Remember that only a small proportion of those who experiment will develop a drug problem.

13. Don’t panic

If you find out that your child has tried drugs, your first reaction may be anger or panic. Wait until you're calm before discussing it with them, and do so in a way that shows your love and concern rather than anger.

Getting help for drugs

If your child is using drugs and you are worried, find out about the help available in Drugs: where to get help.

Get support for yourself

If your child has drug problems, get support for yourself. Lots of organisations offer support to parents and carers, including:

Saying no to drugs

Would you say no to drugs? Find out what choices teenagers Taz and Mike made, and how their lives were affected.

Media last reviewed: 18/06/2015

Next review due: 18/06/2017

Page last reviewed: 09/10/2014

Next review due: 09/10/2016


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The 8 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

CaringMom said on 05 November 2012

It is now great to have someone to contact for advice. I wish I had the opportunity to know more about drugs and alcohol abuse when my son was a child. Good for family member to know what to do and say. My son is now 38 and avoids me contacting him so I feel I haven't helped as much as I could, although I tried everything I thought was right.

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User206209 said on 16 March 2009

I am not a parent of a child yet, but I suppose that it is horrible to know that your kid is having problems with taking drugs. I really don't know how I would react when I would first hear it. One thing is for sue, I would try to make him attend a drug rehabcenter.

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Anonymous said on 28 July 2008

ian you said this advice was laughable, what advice would you give then? its alright having your opinion about someone elses opinion, but you dont seem to have anything to add yourself.
And Loze 423 what does work, or do you think it is a lost cause and we should all just sit back and do nothing?

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josephine said on 29 June 2008

Ian, why would you say that this advice is laughable?
I dont think it is it is extremely good advice for parents and i intend to use it with my own children especially my 16 year old son who has ADHD and has tried drugs while i have talked to him about this andstill am talking to him. I have now found even better advice that i do intend to use.

thank you for this advice i wish we had this in our town here in Ireland, then maybe families would nto be suffering as they are.


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Andrew said on 16 June 2008

Ian, I don't know why you think this advice is laughable, it seems very sensible to me. Everything I've read suggests that parents that have a good relationship with their children helps them to protect the children from having problems with drugs. Equally everything I've read tells me that scaring them or trying to shock doesn't change their behaviour and can, bizarrely, make taking drugs more likely.

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Ian said on 11 June 2008

Laughable. But then what would anybody expect from the NHS. I doubt that even the author believes what they are saying.

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Loze423 said on 02 June 2008

that advice doesn't work

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Anonymous said on 18 March 2008

please up date if posable thank you

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