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A guide for parents and carers Drugs and alcohol

If you are worried about your child's use of drugs or alcohol, help is available. Read our information and advice to find out more.

A young person sits in a room wearing a black hoodie and their hair tied back. They are looking to the right with their hand curled over their mouth, lost in thought.

The use of both legal and illegal drugs among teenagers and young adults is widespread. Teenagers are likely to experiment, test boundaries and take risks. Smoking, drinking and trying drugs are some of the most common ways in which many young people do this.

However, substance misuse is also one of the most common risks to a young person’s health and development. All drugs have the potential to cause harm, some can be addictive, and using drugs in combination can increase the risks. Legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco can be very addictive. Illegal drugs include cannabis, cocaine, ecstasy and heroin.

There are things you can do as a parent to help your child develop a healthy and informed relationship with alcohol and drugs. But if you think your child may be using alcohol or drugs to help them cope with difficult feelings or mental health issues, speak to your GP for professional advice.

Things you can do when advising your child on drugs and alcohol

  • Be a responsible role model

    You will influence your child’s attitudes towards alcohol and drugs well before they have their first experiences with them.

  • Talk openly and honestly about alcohol whenever your children start asking you about it

    This might include the reasons why people can enjoy it, such as socialising and relaxing, drawbacks such as hangovers and getting sick, and the risks posed by alcohol. 

  • Make conversations about alcohol, drugs and safe choices part of the day-to-day rather than a one-off ‘big talk’

    The more you talk about these issues in the family, the more your children will know they can come to you for information and support when they need to.

  • Help your child learn to make safe and healthy decisions.

    Be clear about the connections between drinking, drugs and self-confidence. Encourage your child to strengthen their confidence and wellbeing in other ways such as exercise or sport, doing activities and hobbies they enjoy, and spending time with friends and family.

  • Do your research

    Find out what you can about the law and the health and safety risks associated with under-age drinking - as well as the names and effects of illegal drugs. This will help you to feel more confident about setting boundaries and talking to your child.

Tips and advice from our Parents Helpline

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Download our full Parents Helpline guide to drugs and alcohol

For more information and advice, you can download our full Parents Helpline guide to drugs and alcohol. The guide includes:

  • information about drugs and alcohol
  • information about addiction to drugs and alcohol, and signs that a young person may be struggling with addiction
  • advice on how you can support your child if they are struggling with drugs and alcohol
  • a list of helplines and services you can use
Download our guide to drugs and alcohol

Get help now

Useful helplines and websites

While we take care to ensure that the organisations we signpost to provide high quality information and advice, we cannot take responsibility for any specific pieces of advice they may offer. We encourage parents and carers to always explore the website of a linked service or organisation to understand who they are and what support they offer before engaging with them.

Whether you love the page or think something is missing, we appreciate your feedback. It all helps us to support more young people with their mental health.

Please be aware that this form isn’t a mental health support service. If your child is in crisis right now and you want to talk to someone urgently, find out who to contact on our urgent help page.

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Please note:

This form is not a mental health support service. We cannot reply to this. If you or your child are at immediate risk of harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E. If you are worried about your child’s mental health, call our Parents Helpline on 0808 802 5544, Mon-Fri, 9:30am – 4pm. If you are struggling with your own mental health, call Samaritans on 116 123.

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