A plea to sort the drugs laws out before my son’s old enough to take them

I’m scared for my son because I know, that like almost all of his peers, he will take drugs. Telling him “just say no” is a massive waste of time, because ultimately he lives in Hackney and all his mates will be doing them.

I have my policy all worked out. I will talk to him openly and frankly about the dangers and the potential penalties of drug taking and then leave him to it, being ready with the munchies, sick bucket and St John’s Wort when he can’t cope with suicide Tuesday.

I only wish the government was quite so understanding. Although it has openly admitted that it has lost the war on drugs, with state prisoners – and the nation’s 40 year olds – apparently – among the UK’s biggest users of drugs, the movement to decriminalise  and regulate the supply of drugs has been kicked off the agenda by every government trying to curry favour with ageing voters out of touch with the current drugs market which, as anyone under 50 knows, is awash with new compounds with which our penal, legal system, health service and bodies are simply not equipped to cope.

And this is what scares me. That Jonah will take drugs is not in doubt. Christ, I ran the gamut from pot to cocaine, through a night on speed  - the night Princess Diana died, in fact, but I was gurning too much to care at the time, and a terrible, terrible night on magic mushrooms – god help me, but psychedelics really aren’t my cup of tea. Coke was the drug of choice among the post-gap yah population at Bristol where I went to uni, although personally I’d spent most of my student loan getting my nose fixed after breaking it on the dry slopes at Hemel Hempstead, so I really only had enough cash to take it  twice, and I revisited a weed habit, begun with my first boyfriend aged 15 in Small Town UK where EVERYONE smoked it, when I got insomnia after the kids were born – and it worked a treat at getting me to nod off, even if I felt a bit overzealous the day after.

The fact is that drugs are a NORMAL part of growing up, and anyone who says otherwise needs their head examined.  I don’t doubt that my kids will do their fair share of experimenting, but like most grown ups of every generation it’s WHAT they’re taking that scares the living daylights out of me. No doubt in the 90s, the glassy wide eyed look of the average pill head made their parents want to call for an ambulance, despite the fact that you have more chance choking to death on a cabbage leaf than dying from MDMA.

But who knows what they’re manufacturing these days? And I don’t speak from the ‘scared but ignorant’ stance of many of yesterday’s parents who thought themselves a bit left field  if they’d smoked a joint after a gig once at college.  I myself had a nasty experience on the then legal high miaow miaow only a few years ago.  Yes, I know, I was old enough to know better, but the fact was I was bored having raised two kids to at least toddlerdom and knackered too, and  when someone offered me some on a night out, I took a naughty little dab or two to keep me awake, and ended up having an amazing night.

But the problem was that this ‘legal high’ took the best bits about pills and the best bits about cocaine and put them together in a yummy little compound that was so moreish that very soon, ALL of my (mid 20s, early 30s, otherwise solvent, home owning, work going) friends were taking it ALL of the time. The only reason I wasn’t is that I had to get up in the morning, and sometimes in the night without a weekend to get over it and this was one drug that really wouldn’t let you go to sleep. I know people who would take it for days before crashing and burning.

But even then I wasn’t immune from its charms. I had a few other dabs on other nights out when it was waved under my nose, and perhaps it was the fact that I was knackered and stressed , but I had a reaction that certainly made me wary of taking any other crystalline substances that are passed round at parties.

I got this pain. It was through my eye and wandered around my face. A neuralgia, I lasted two weeks before wailing to the doctor that I wanted to shoot myself in the face – but I couldn’t, as a mother of two, for fear of the repercussions, explain why. Her only option was to prescribe me more drugs, and she gave me quite a cocktail. My body buckled under the pressure. My skin swelled up. I developed rashes, under my arms, eyelids and really grimly, around my arse. Chronic fatigue followed, with sleeping sickness descending on me every time I ate. It took years to unpick. My nutritionist friend, whose sister, who also grew up in Smalltown UK, and tragically died of a heroin overdose, suggested a natropathic anti-candida diet and gradually,  my body began to recover as I wasted away on a strict regime of no sugar, no carbs and no alcohol.  But, thrilled as  I was about being seven stone and a trim size 8 by the end of it, all that self denial had left me with a sporadic coke habit that reared its ugly head on weekends. Wary, I may have been, but I don’t have enough will power to ever be totally opposed. It was a vicious cycle.

The point is,  people take drugs when they are miserable and bored, to self-medicate, or let their hair down, coerced by friends, or socially awkward at parties. But what’s worrying the fact that no one knows what they’re taking any more, and so the government owes it to our young people  - and everyone else, for that matter – to regulate the drugs market for all sorts of reasons to do with trafficking and taxation, but for the average drug user – which is most of us, at some point or other in our lives – when something goes wrong, you can actually tell the doctor what you’ve taken and they have a hope in hell of knowing how to treat it.

Drugs aren’t going away, and they are getting more complicated. As a responsible parent – yes, thanks, now a size ten who pushes a 12 the week my period’s due, my drug use these days is confined to caffeine, e-fags and booze – I sincerely wish the government would honour its duty of care to the population and do away with damaging drug laws that compound rather than solve everyone’s problems. But until the world relaxes its stance on drugs, we’d only end up being the country that hedonists and addicts the world over worldwide flocked to to get the treatment, understanding and quality gear that everyone deserves.

7 thoughts on “A plea to sort the drugs laws out before my son’s old enough to take them

  1. Thank you for this post. It is such an important topic to address. I don’t know whether I agree or disagree with all of your points yet, because I haven’t thought about it much. The fact that I haven’t thought about it is terrible. Now I will take time to work out what my views are.
    I read a horrendous article over the weekend about a girl who died after taking something – one of my first thoughts was, “If my kids do drugs, let the drugs be well made”. The thought, “I hope my kids don’t do drugs”. did not enter my head. I think that says a lot.

    • Hi Abby,

      I think my point is that drugs are getting more complicated s they grow more commonplace. As their use becomes more socially understood, and socially acceptable – hell even Nigella’s at it these days – we need laws which keep up with the supply, which as compounds flood the market freely, means we need to do away with drugs morality and take a social standpoint which anticipates that people will use these substances. But quiet drugs decriminalisation is happening in this country. But to make swinging laws needs a change of mindset globally – as it stands what will get you get executed in one nation, you’ll get medical help for in another. But the fact is, as parents, we need to be clear on what will and won’t help our children growing up in this new drugs minefield, and burying your head in the sand, or taking a hard line approach ain’t gonna help anyone. Transparency and honesty, however, will. We need our children to be able to talk to us about what they will undoubtedly be faced with as they grow up in this new drugs reality.

  2. Thank you for this interesting and frank post. I really struggle with the recreational drug question … the question being how do I advise my 11 year old son in these matters when I have and occasionally still do indulge in the class a’s and b’s. I am still not sure but find it heartening to read your experience and know I am not alone.

  3. I think your assumption that your son “will take drugs” is flawed. Mostly because I have never ever taken drugs(and cant really think why I would change that). I’m not over 40 by the way, I’m a university student.

    I’m not trying to imply that it was wrong for you to have taken drugs – what is a bad idea for me may well be completely fine for you, each to their own. I agree with you that it would probably be a good thing if they did legalize drugs (or some of them at least).

    However please don’t assume that cos you did it your son will inevitably do drugs.

    • I appreciate your comments, and I should think yourself lucky to have been in the situation where this has not been a problem for you. Many are not so fortunate. As a university student, I too had buckets of willpower, my head well and truly screwed on, and everything to live for. Life can sometimes take its toll.

      I take the assumption that my son will be exposed to drug culture at some point in his life, given where we live, his peers, where he goes to school, and my own experiences of drugs culture becoming increasingly mainstream.

      I like to think that when the time comes, he will make sensible choices, but the overwhelming pressures that he will face as he grows up will mean, that chances are, he will experiment at some point in his life. And I hope that I will be ready to deal with the fallout, however major or minor that is. I think a lot of people have their heads buried in the sand about this issue, but I hope, buy raising the issue, that people for whom drugs have never been a problem realise that this may not be the case for their kids.

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