Alcohol and Drugs
Leavers is an exciting time for our young people as they celebrate completing their schooling and moving into a new phase of their life. Whilst exciting, they may also experience situations they have not been in before.
Leavers activities are DRUG, ALCOHOL & SMOKE-FREE however young people may find themselves in environments where alcohol is being consumed and potentially in situations where people are using drugs. An important part of preparing young people for Leavers, is talking with them about alcohol and other drugs.
Not using alcohol or other drugs is the safest choice. However, if young people do choose to use alcohol and other drugs, there are a number of strategies that can help reduce their risk of harm – and research shows they do use them (Lam, 2014).
Let’s talk about Alcohol…
- Alcohol is the most used drug at Leavers.
- You should be aware of secondary supply laws.
- Alcohol reduces inhibitions, which can lead to doing things you would not do if you weren’t affected by alcohol for example illicit drugs.
For some leavers, alcohol use has reportedly resulted in negative experiences (Lam et al., 2014):
- Blacking out
- Unprotected sex or sex they later regretted
- Being physically aggressive or having a heated argument
- Accident or injury
- Being hungover
Alcohol is the most common substance used in drink spiking
- Don’t accept drinks from other people, even if you know them
- Don’t leave drinks unattended
- Know the signs and symptoms (similar to consuming a lot of alcohol, feeling sick or dizzy, feeling drunk after a small amount of alcohol, or passing out)
- If you think that you or a friend has had your drink spiked, ask someone you trust to help get you to a safe place and seek help urgently.
What about illicit drugs?
You don’t know what you’re getting in relation to:
- The substance/s present – it may not be what is expected
- Purity and potency
Research indicates many young people attending Leavers are more likely to use MDMA than they were at their previous social events (Lam et al., 2014).
MDMA use can lead to:
- high body temperatures (heat stroke/hyperthermia)
- brain swelling (from water intoxication and low salt levels [hyponatremia]), and
- seizures (from serotonin toxicity).
- These conditions can cause death unless recognised and treated early.
Again, not using the drug is the safest option, but if your teenager does choose to use MDMA, they need to know about the potential harms, strategies for reducing risk, warning signs to seek help, and what to do when help is needed.
The Drug Aware website has a comprehensive list of harm reduction strategies specific to MDMA.
Polydrug use – mixing different drugs
Two or more drugs are used at, or near, the same time. Mixing drugs is dangerous and the effect can be unpredictable.
Severe side-effects associated with taking higher doses of drugs are more likely to be experienced when mixing drugs. Especially when drugs of unknown content and purity are mixed:
- Stimulants with depressants can have dangerous masking effects. For example combining alcohol and energy can make you feel less affected by the alcohol than you actually are.
- Stimulants with stimulants can result in toxicity, severe dehydration, dangerously high body temperature, heart attack, seizures, even death.
- Depressants with depressants can depress heart rate and breathing, leading to loss of consciousness, risk of choking on vomit and fluids and death.
Tips for parents
- Talk early about plans for Leavers
- Be prepared – you don’t need to be an expert, but do your homework to inform yourself. The Alcohol Think Again and Drug Aware websites provide information for parents specific to Leavers.
- Discuss your expectations.
- Discuss ways to stay safe. A helpful strategy is to explore risks associated with:
- the drug for example type of drug, how it is taken, amount consumed.
- the individual for example age, experience, physical and mental health, mood, expectations.
- the environment for example where and with whom the drug use occurs.
- Talk with other parents.
- Empower your teenager with knowledge to make informed decisions, drug refusal strategies, and plans for keeping themselves safe and their friends safe.
Alcohol Think Again. (2022, July 27). Leavers Week: Leavers week and alcohol. https://alcoholthinkagain.com.au/parents-young-people/leavers-week/
Alcohol Think Again. (2022, July 27). Tips for parents. Alcohol & Young People - Tips & Advice For Parents | Alcohol.Think Again (alcoholthinkagain.com.au)
Drug Aware. (2022, July 27). Leavers https://drugaware.com.au/staying-safe/leavers
Drug Aware. (2022, July 27). MDMA: The facts. mdma-factsheet.pdf (drugaware.com.au)
Lam, T., Liang, W., Chikritzhs., & Allsop, S. (2013), Alcohol and other drug use at school leavers' celebrations. J Public Health. 36(3): p. 408-416