DILEMMAS / My son, the furtive dope smoker

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Some may find it amazing that there are still huge rock pools of folk to whom the word 'joint' means only something they carve on Sundays, but Angie, who wrote in last week, was just such a person. She had been tidying her 16-year-old son's bedroom and was appalled to find a lighter and cigarette papers under his bed. She was further freaked out when a friend scoffed at her anxieties about his smoking cigarettes, saying that he almost certainly smoked dope like everyone else at school. Since then she had found more clues that confirmed her suspicions, and, as a complete innocent herself in the world of drugs, she wanted to know what line to take.

First, a few comments from those who considered the fact that Angie was tidying her 16-year-old son's bedroom more shocking than his dope-smoking. 'Surely he had been doing this himself for at least the last six years]' wrote A Franklyn of London, N7, in astonishment. The aptly-named Alan Roach of Battersea wrote: 'First, yes, Angie's son probably is having the odd joint, and, frankly, so what? Second, if she was 'tidying' her son's bedroom I'll eat my Rizlas. She was snooping and she knows it. As such she deserves all the worry she gets.'

Having said that, what next? First Angie should get the facts. Readers' letters abounded with them. Very few people die from taking drugs; experimenting with drugs does not always lead to dependency; and the majority of cannabis users don't go on to use hard drugs. But it also must be emphasised that cannabis is illegal, and that although not physically addictive, it can lead to psychological addiction.

A fourth-year medical student described 'this most sociable drug' as 'much safer than the drug of alcohol which may lead to addiction, violence, liver cirrhosis, fatal and non-fatal accidents and overdose. It is said that the only way to overdose on cannabis is if a ton of it lands on your head.'

Helen, a further education teacher from Kent, observes 'the difference between those students who smoke cannabis on Friday lunch-time and those who go to the pub. The former spend their time benignly discussing the meaning of life, the latter always pick fights. Don't worry, Angie. Your son could be much worse. He could be a 16-year-old father; he could be practising unsafe sex; or he could be choking on his own vomit through alcohol.'

Quite a few readers suggested, like Tony of Glasgow, that before opening up the subject with her son, she should roll her own, smoke it, 'and then decide whether you've got something to worry about or not'. James, a 21-year-old from West Kensington, confessed to his mother that he smoked dope and, at her request, gave some to her to try. 'Her attitude changed from 'don't touch the stuff' to 'don't smoke too much'. It is now treated in the same way as alcohol.'

Since 'kids all over the country, of all ages and class, now view it as part of growing up because it is so widely used,' as Bill of Liverpool pointed out, it is important for Angie to know what she's talking about before blowing her top.

'Excessive, uninformed paranoia is self-defeating,' wrote Peter Deadman. 'If we tell kids that marijuana or Ecstasy, for example, will lead to a life of hopeless degradation and addiction, when they discover that this is not the case, it will only result in rejection of all information offered by such an obviously unreliable source.'

And Ian of Willesden was perhaps the wisest. 'Angie should say 'I am sorry I went through your things but I found something I would like to ask you about.' Don't forbid him to smoke. Angie should make it clear that she is not happy with it but recognises that at 16 he is going to make his own decisions. Most importantly, before she speaks to her son again, Angie should visit her local drug advice centre and read a leaflet or two.'

Personally, I would outline the arguments against all drugs, including alcohol, but end by saying that what my son did in his own room was entirely his affair. I would never tidy, always knock. And even if I had to wait 10 minutes before I was allowed in and the room reeked of dope, raised eyebrows would be my absolute limit.

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