The drug menace! What can parents do?

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(public domain)

By Spencer D Gear

Note: the statistics in this article need to be updated, but they should provide an example of the use of illicit drugs in Australia.

Matthew is above-average as a student, not bad looking, liked by his mates, faithfully attends church, comes from a middle-class family. By the time he reaches age 18, what are his chances of experimenting with alcohol or an illicit drug (including marijuana)?

Marijuana is the most common illicit drug in Australia;

One in three people aged 14 and over has tried marijuana;[2]

One survey found that 15% of all Australians used illicit drugs at least once in the previous 12 months;

26% of all teenagers (aged 14-19) used illicit drugs at least once in the previous 12 months;

98% of street kids (under age 19) used illicit drugs at least once in the previous 12 months.[3]

27% of 15-year-old girls smoke nicotine and 21% of 15-year-old boys smoke nicotine (1990 data)[4]

From 1985-1993, the proportion of South Australian 14-19 year olds who said they had ever used marijuana increased 50%. This was after decriminalisation (on-the- spot fines) in SA in 1987. This compared with increases of 4% (Qld), 31% (WA), 39% (Vic), and a decrease of 7% (NSW).[5]

What is happening for the older age groups is of great concern:

50% of people aged 20-29 have used marijuana;[6]

60% of males and 45% of females aged 25-39 have used marijuana.[7]

Variation of % of 20-39 year olds who ever used marijuana, 1985-1993: increase 6% (Vic), 11% (WA), 15% (NSW), 32% (SA) [after decriminalisation (on the spot fines) in SA in 1987], and a decrease of 2% (Qld).[8]

In 1989, as far as “absolute alcohol consumption is concerned, [Australia ranks] 15th in the world and our level of consumption is the highest of all English-speaking nations.

“Alcohol abuse has now become the major drug problem in Australia, with alcohol-related road deaths, hospital admissions and drownings bearing witness to the enormity of the problem.

“Family breakdowns, domestic violence, homicides and money worries go hand-in-hand with excessive drinking, as do depression, sexual impotence, permanent brain damage and poor dietary habits.”[9]

“Drug misuse [is] estimated to cost Australia more than $14 billion a year in road trauma, health care, lost productivity, and law enforcement.”[10] The breakdown is:

Alcohol = $6.027 billion

Tobacco = $6.842 billion

Street Drugs = $1.441 billion.[11]

These people come from every walk of life: rich and poor, liberal and conservative, religious and non-religious, rural, suburban, and inner city.

The legal drugs are devastating our community. Why then the push to make illict drugs (such as marijuana and heroin) more readily available? I think this is crazy thinking.

It’s time to conclude that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH and do something about this plague on the nation.

How to Motivate Others to Get Involved.

In one city,[12] a group of parents joined together to try to curb drug abuse and provide a treatment program for their youth. They called themselves “Parents Against Drugs“. They approached government with this idea that when children are caught with drugs or alcohol at school, the student will be placed in a school where everyone enrolled has the same problem with drug and alcohol abuse.

The students would provide support for each other to stay drug-free. They would have access to treatment alternatives.

Even if these parents do not succeed, they have at least raised the awareness of the need in that city and have the ear of government officials.

In another city, on New Year’s Eve when there are a lot of drink-driving deaths, businesses, parents, P&C’s, and other groups, are pulling together to provide free rides home to those who become drunk.

In Philadelphia (USA), parents became angry at the number of crack (a form of cocaine) dealers who had moved into their area. They formed a group:

to become the best-informed parents in the country about drugs;

police trained the parents to observe behaviour to identify drug pushing and dealing;

that learned how to spot the problem and they took action by calling the police with a complaint about a drug dealer in the street;

that cleaned up suburbs that were infested with crack and its dealers.

which had a practical impact on its community.

If you are frustrated with a lack of action in your community to deal with drugs, stop expecting others to solve the problem. It’s time for parents to stop pointing fingers and start looking for ways that everyone in the community can stop drug abuse. It can start with you.

How can it happen?


For parents to pull together to save our children, it must start with someone. One concerned parent can begin something that will make a radical difference for drug-free children.

The most important contributors are parents.

We need a grass-roots effort to change the direction of the drug problem.

Parents can take other steps:

  • insure that existing laws against drug abuse are strictly enforced;
  • make a public fuss if you believe magistrates are not doing the correct thing in sentencing;
  • do something at the level of the education department to make sure our youth are getting accurate information about drugs. Perhaps starting at the P&C meeting. Maybe parents can form prevention groups to go into schools.
  • parents should work to keep drug abuse a criminal offence. Decriminalisation sends a dangerous message to our youth.

Parents could join together to:

  • make sure there is no alcohol or drugs at school functions or parties their children go to;
  • close down functions for children and under-age youth where there is alcohol or drugs;
  • make sure the names of those who supply alcohol and drugs to the under-aged are given to the police and are prosecuted.

However, we must make sure parents know the dangers of alcohol and other drugs so they understand the reason for the firm stand.

You don’t have to be a psychologist or a counsellor to run a support group for parents or youth. Advertise it and when the first person comes, you have the start of a support group to begin the movement to drug-proof your children. However, plan your approach carefully. There is no excuse for a shoddy program.


Before motivating parents to join together, you could start with youth coming together. Often when youth join together to attack the drug problem, it is easier to get their parents involved.

When youth form a group against drugs and alcohol, it should be based on a pledge that all members of the group are accountable to each other and their parents to remain drug and alcohol free. Often youth join a gang of drug-users because of a lack of alternatives. Why don’t youth join a group that could be called A.A.D.D.–Adolescents Against Drunk Driving? Wouldn’t it be amazing to see such a positive peer group in our schools?

A New York State (USA) survey of 8,000 high school students found how the peer group influenced drug use. The results were:[13]

Close Friends Who Used Drugs Personal Use of Drugs
None 2%
Few 17%
Some 50%
Most 80%
All 90%

The study found that the “number of weekly visits with drug-oriented friends had an impact on drug use.” The message is clear: Our children become like the mates they hang around with.


The war on drugs will be won when the community comes together to help. Churches need to be part of the pro-active movement to deal with drugs. It is not to be left just to church youth workers, Sunday School teachers and pastors–it is the job of the whole church.

  • train the staff;
  • choose leaders for the church’s pro-active stance against drugs;
  • there needs to be teachers in the church for drug education, prevention and treatment;
  • make courses available for parents. They need to know the facts about drugs and prevention strategies;
  • after the parents get knowledge, it’s time to educate the children:
  • children don’t learn best by lectures. Bring in a redeemed drug addict to tell his/her story. Show films giving graphic details about the realities of drug abuse; use drama.
  • educate the children of the church with exposure to accurate drug information.

You could organise parents to provide healthy activities for youth when temptations are there. After sporting events or other social events for youth, why not organise pizza parties at your place?

Join with other churches in presenting a united voice against the drug problems in your city or suburb. The church can set a standard of leadership for the whole community. We desperately need a community-wide drug education and prevention push that challenges the government’s “harm minimisation” line. I believe it is ludicrous trying to teach our youth how to use harmful drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and other illicit drugs to minimise harm. I find this a message of madness.


Anybody can start the drug prevention movement in your city. There’s no reason why it can’t be you, if you are convinced about the danger of drugs and you want to be part of the solution.

The year 1975 was a bad one for the U.S. State of Alaska. Marijuana use in the privacy of the home was made legal. Drug use and abuse escalated. Lynda Adams was deeply concerned. She formed a local parent group that eventually became a state-wide organisation, Alaskans for Drug-Free Youth. A 1990 public referendum in Alaska made marijuana use a criminal offence again. She says, “I encourage people not to give up because dedication and perseverance can make a difference.”

You can mobilise the media, the schools, police, and parents to stop the drug problem in your area. The drug war can’t be won alone. The hearts and minds of this generation of young people are at stake.


Molly Frye was a mother of three teenagers:

“A few years ago, she got fed up with what her kids were being taught about sex and drug abuse in the school system, and she decided to do something about it.

“Without a day’s experience in formal youth work, Molly wrote a curriculum about crisis pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse. As a guest instructor, she presented her curriculum in a health class. It was so well received that [in one] year she and a modest band of volunteers spoke to more than 16,000 students in [her] community. One person can make a difference.[14]

The Family and Drug Abuse

One of the best predictors of a youth’s drinking habits is the attitude of the parents towards alcohol. “Children of alcoholics have a four-times-greater risk of developing alcoholism than children of non-alcoholics.”

Children are more likely to “abuse drugs if their parents:

  • smoke cigarettes;
  • abuse alcohol or are alcoholics;
  • take illicit drugs;
  • use any substance to help master stress;
  • impart an ambivalent or positive attitude toward illegal drugs.”[15]
  • What happens when children see:
  • Daddy has a so-called harmless few beers or glass of wine after work?
  • Mum feeling lousy and running to the medicine cabinet for a valium?

Then there’s the denial or lack of knowledge by parents of what their children are up to. One U.S. study of 600 grade 12 students and their parents about alcohol use found that “only 35 percent of the adults believed their sons and daughters had consumed beer, wine or liquor within the last month. But according to the kids, the actual figure was nearly double that.”[16]


[1] Prepared by Spencer Gear when he was a family counsellor in Hervey Bay, Qld., Australia. He has since retired from that role.

[2]Recent statistics reveal that “marijuana is the most wide-spread drug in use following tobacco and alcohol, with 31 per cent of Australians having tried it and 13 per cent using it in the year before the survey.” This National Drug Strategy household survey involving 3,850 people over a two month period, was conducted by AGB-McNair and was released by the federal Health Minister, Michael Wooldridge (in the Bundaberg News-Mail, July 6, 1996, p. 10.)

[3]Statistics on marijuana and other illicit drugs, based on NCADA National Household Survey 1991.

[4]NSW Cancer Council Study, 1990 data.

[5]Queensland Criminal Justice Commission Report 1994 (CJC). Source: NCADA 1985-93, in Elaine Walters, The Cruel Hoax: Street Drugs in Australia. Shield Pty. Ltd., [PO Box 230, Malvern, Vic. 3144, Phone: 018 036 898], 1996, 35.

[6]The Parliamentary Joint Committee on National Crime Authority, 1989, Table 2, p. 38.

[7]Statistics on drug abuse in Australia, 1992, p. 33.

[8]Queensland Criminal Justice Commission Report 1994 (CJC). Source: NCADA 1985-93, in Elaine Walters, The Cruel Hoax: Street Drugs in Australia. Shield Pty. Ltd., [PO Box 230, Malvern, Vic. 3144, Phone: 018 036 898], 1996, 35.

[9]“A devil too many of us know well,” The Canberra Times, March 3, 1992, p. 21.

[10]“Legal drug abuse more costly than illegal use,” The Canberra Times, April 7, 1993, p. 19.

[11]National Campaign Against Drug Abuse, March 1991.

[12]Albuquerque, New Mexico (USA), in Stephen Arterburn & Jim Burns, Drug-Proof Your Kids. Pomona, California: Focus on the Family Publishing, 1989., p. 162.

[13]What Works: Schools Without Drugs. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education, 1987, p. 15, in Arterburn & Burns, p. 27.

[14]In Arterburn & Burns, p. 172.

[15]Donald W. Goodwin, M.D., Is Alcoholism Hereditary? New York: Ballantine Books, Inc., 1988, p. 3, in Arterburn & Burns, pp. 27-28.

[16]Ken Barun and Philip Bashe, How to Keep the Children You Love Off Drugs. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1988, p. 4, in Arterburn & Burns, p. 28.

Copyright ยฉ 2009 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 28 January 2018