Children becoming adolescents gain increasing freedom from the family fold and with this comes greater exposure to all sorts of adult activities – some of these may even be illegal.
The increasing availability of illicit drugs in society means that it isn’t always possible to keep your child away from drugs. If your child does encounter and experiment with drugs, it’s important to know that you can get help with how to handle the situation from a psychologist.
Why do kids experiment with drugs?
Imagine a young person kept in isolation and unable to encounter the outside world where adults drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, and where heroes in movies do drugs and break the law. To avoid references to drug use, they would need to avoid advertising, celebrity gossip magazines, TV, movies, and the internet – clearly an impossible scenario. The innate curiosity of children means they will want to try things, sometimes before they are legally of age, and sometimes even if they know it is completely illegal.
So what drives this behaviour?
The need for acceptance in young people makes peer pressure incredibly powerful in motivating children and especially adolescents in their behaviour. Often this is the key driver to trying drugs or maintaining a habit. If adolescents are in with the right or wrong crowd it can make the biggest difference in their adoption or resistance to bad habits. Mixing with the wrong crowd can cause adolescents to override their parents’ wishes or even their own values.
Children who experiment with drugs often seek out experiences that produce thrills and excitement that their day-to-day lives can’t duplicate. This is not unusual and adults often seek adventure and thrills such as white water rafting, car racing, bungee-jumping, affairs and illicit sexual relationships etc.
The difference is taking drugs is illegal and potentially harmful. Some people say we are wired to seek out thrills and the dopamine ‘hit’ of the thrill can be as strong as the ‘high’ of the drug use. Often there is an element of rebellion in amongst the motivations for adolescents to try drugs, where it shows an independence from the thinking and behaviours of family and society.
Sometimes, children aren’t rebelling against their parents they are copying them. Drugs can provide an escape route. Young people on drugs often talk of being able to ‘zone out’ from the pressures of life, in a way they can’t do without chemical assistance.
There is also often a feeling that the consequences of drug abuse and even addiction don’t apply to them. This immortal feeling in young people is important for taking risks and having adventures when you are in a time of your life when you have less to lose, as long as it is managed and doesn’t get out of control.