Drugs FAQ

Cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy - understanding the risks

I've discovered that my child is smoking cannabis - what are the risks associated with this drug?

Cannabis is the most widely used illegal drug in Britain. Smoking it can leave users feeling relaxed, optimistic and talkative. However, it also has hallucinogenic effects which can lead to paranoia and anxiety. There's also increasing evidence of a link between cannabis and mental health problems such as schizophrenia, while around 10% of users develop a psychological dependence on the drug. Heavy use can lead to concentration problems, while some users begin to feel tired all the time and lack motivation. It is a particularly risky drug for anyone with heart problems as it increases the heart rate and can affect blood pressure, and can also lead to respiratory diseases, coughs and sore throats.

If my child is taking cannabis then does this mean that they will begin experimenting with other drugs such as cocaine and ecstasy?

There is no strong evidence to suggest that cannabis is a 'gateway drug'. Many young people who experiment with recreational drugs do not go on to develop long-term problems with substance abuse. A small minority who use cannabis may move on to other drugs. However, it is an individual's choice whether they take drugs and what type of drug they use, and as such it is difficult to generalise. The key is in understanding why your child had taken a drug such as cannabis in the first place - be it peer pressure or lack of self-esteem - as these factors will invariably influence their decision to experiment with harder drugs in the future.

My child has started hanging out with a dodgy crowd and I’m worried they'll be exposed to drugs. What should I do?

Try to understand why they're attracted to this new crowd - it could be that they're having problems with their existing friends or they want to be accepted by these particular peers. Don't be afraid to talk openly to them about drugs - they're unlikely to raise the issue, so the onus will be on you. Make sure they're aware of the risks of drugs - both physical and legal. It's easy as adults to forget that growing up can be tough. Your child will be going through lots of physical and emotional changes, as well as dealing with a massive surge of hormones. If they seem moody or aggressive, then talk to them: ask them what's going on in their world, and how they are coping with all the changes that come with being a teen. 

Will my child get a criminal record if they are caught by the police with cannabis? 

If they are caught with even a small amount of cannabis, the police will confiscate it and can make an arrest. What the police will do depends on the circumstances and the age of the person. The maximum penalty for possession of cannabis is five years in prison plus an unlimited fine. Dealing is a very serious offence in the eyes of the law. This includes giving drugs to friends. People who grow cannabis in their homes or carry larger amounts on them also risk being charged with intent to supply. The maximum penalty for supply is 14 years in prison plus an unlimited fine.

How would I know if my child is using drugs?

Often there are not any clear signs that a person is using drugs. The following are things to look out for, but remember that most of these can occur for lots of different reasons and may be unrelated to drug use:

  • Red rimmed eyes
  • Loss of interest in school, hobbies, friends
  • Loss of appetite, drowsiness
  • Mood swings
  • Money /valuables going missing regularly
  • Burnt foil, torn cigarette packets, empty aerosols, or pipes found around the house

There are probably lots of questions that you may have about illegal drugs and its use amongst young people. It is important to try and educate yourself with as much information as you can. For more information, browse the rest of our pages on drugs, including our A-Z, or vist the FRANK website.

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