Parents urged to discuss drink and drug dangers

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With thousands of young people due to receive their exam results, the Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging parents to talk to their children about the risks associated with alcohol and taking drugs.

Exam results are a huge milestone for young people and many will go out socialising with friends after they receive their results.

Owen O’Neill, the PHA’s regional lead on alcohol and drugs, said that parents’ attitudes and behaviours in relation to alcohol and drugs have a strong influence on their children.

“Many teenagers will go out with friends when they get exam results, whether they are celebrating or commiserating. Both scenarios can lead to excessive drinking or drug-taking, so there’s an important role for parents to talk to their children about the risks.

“Parents can make the first move and talk frankly about the dangers of binge-drinking and encourage their children to have fun with friends without alcohol.

“If your child is of the legal drinking age, you can encourage them to take care if they choose to drink. Even if your child is old enough to drink, staying within the safe drinking limits is important, as excessive drinking can have lasting effects on health, such as damage to the liver, heart, brain and stomach.”

Mr. O’Neill also highlighted the risks of taking non-described drugs.

“You can never be sure of exactly what is contained in non-prescribed drugs. You are at risk if you take drugs that haven’t been prescribed. The PHA advice is never to mix alcohol and drugs and this also applies to taking alcohol with prescribed medication.

“So-called ‘legal highs’ have emerged over the past few years and government legislation has had an impact on preventing a number of substances being sold.

“However, the PHA is also aware that new substances continue to be promoted and sold over the internet, through ‘head shops’, and through other sources.

“So, take the initiative and have a chat with your child and listen to their views.”

Further information specifically for those people who are intent on using drugs can be found at www.publichealth.hscni.net/publications/harm-reduction-drug-users

The PHA also pointed out that parents should be aware of the impact of disappointing exam results on mental health.

Teenagers not getting the grades they hoped for can result in them feeling anxious or low. It is important not to neglect the possible impact of this stress on mental and emotional well-being. Parents are urged to look out for behaviour or feelings that could indicate that their child is showing signs of stress. More information on looking after mental health and the support available in Northern Ireland can be found at www.mindingyourhead.info

For further information on alcohol limits and where to get help for both alcohol and drug problems see www.knowyourlimits.info