“Have I been too laid back about drugs?”

When we discovered our normally sensible fifteen year-old son was occasionally smoking cannabis we decided we would treat it calmly by warning him of the risks and trusting him to see sense. But since I’ve been looking it up on the internet, I feel frantic with worry. There’s details there of how it can bring on mental illness and I’m scared our calm approach could be the wrong one for his long-term health. My husband says not to go over the top, but how can I just sit by and hope it doesn’t happen? Rachel

Denise says:

You’re right to be worried. Two million people in the UK smoke cannabis and half of all 16-29 year olds have tried it at least once. Too many people see it as a harmless substance that helps you to relax and ‘chill’. However, recent research has suggested that cannabis can be a major cause of psychotic illnesses in those who are genetically vulnerable. Two or three years ago an eminent psychiatrist told me of his fears that we would see a spate of psychotic illness in the young as a result of cannabis use. The probability is that your son is not genetically vulnerable. Only a certain number of young people are affected so, while you need to do all you can to help him give up, don’t let fear overwhelm you. Your son is sensible. Give him the facts and I’m sure he’ll see sense. You’ll find help and support on www.talktofrank.com and Family Lives (familylives.org.uk, 0808 800 2222) will have heard your story many times and can give you valuable advice. I wish people who talk about cannabis being an aid to recreation would remember that, to someone with a good life, it may be possible to dabble and not get over-involved. To anyone who is vulnerable or unhappy, however, drugs can be a temporary easement that makes their troubles much worse in the long run.

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