Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: My teenage son is using ketamine and cocaine

A friend has suggested we kick him out onto the streets, but we can't bear it


Dear Virginia,

Our son is taking drugs. He’s still at school – only 17 – and he’s into ketamine and cannabis, and he often comes home completely out of it. We’ve talked to him, we’ve asked the mother of a friend who is now mentally damaged as a result of it to come and talk to him, and even his own contemporaries are worried about him. But there seems to be nothing we can do. A friend has suggested we kick him out onto the streets, but neither my wife nor myself could bear to do that. Some of the time he seems fine. But is there anything you can suggest?


Yours sincerely,




Virginia says...

Sometimes there’s nothing a parent can “do”, however much they long to. You’ve made it absolutely clear where you stand on all this, and it may be that you’ve just got to sit tight and hold on to your hat. Maintain the disapproval, but tone down the “shock horror” reaction. A shrug and a comment about how pathetic he’s being when he’s stoned will be more effective from now on. Along, of course, with perhaps a more understanding attitude, when he’s drug-free, about his obvious discomfort about the stage he’s at now.

Seventeen is a tricky age for males. They’re neither boys nor men, they’re baffled about what they actually are, and they can often swing from being confident and responsible to being positive babies. Although I’m sure it’s against your instincts, it might, oddly, be a moment to try to give him more rather than less responsibility. Showing your own vulnerability now and again and looking to him for a bit of support – and then telling him how grateful you are for it – would boost his ego no end. Ask him for help with things. It’s one thing to ask him to mow the lawn, which will meet, I imagine, with furious resistance; another thing to say that you’ve got a cracking headache and you’re just too knackered to do it yourself, and then, if he manages to do even a bit of it, telling him he’s a mowing genius. Or ask him to read over a difficult letter you’ve written – and take his suggestions on board. Or ask him to explain a computer game to you and confess that you’re clueless.

I imagine you’ve talked to his teachers and got their take on things. It may be that he’s unhappy about something he’s not telling you about or it may be that he’s in with a bad crowd or just trying break away from what he see as a claustrophobic or controlling home environment. His teachers will have views. Listen to them.

Anyway, didn’t you go a bit off the rails at your son’s age? Just because ketamine wasn’t the drug of choice when you were young doesn’t mean to say you might not have given it a go if it had been. Most of us look back on ourselves at that age and wince when we see what lucky escapes we had.

I had a young relative who was into ketamine at about the same age, and luckily he escaped unscathed when he was 19. Don’t even consider throwing your son out onto the streets. With any luck, he will, simply, grow out of it.

Virginia Ironside will appear in ‘Growing Old Disgracefully’ at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms on 12 August

Readers say...

Show him respect

Ignore the idiot who advised you to kick out your son. You owe him a duty of care. He is old enough to make his own choices, maybe not always good ones. All you can do is to demonstrate that you love and respect him; that his drug-taking is not a problem for you per se (when did you have your first alcohol?); that you are well informed and intelligently concerned about the ketamine, and that it’s your job as parents to be sure he is, too.

Any attempt to control  him is likely to be counter-productive. Although in important ways he is still a child, communication has to be adult-to-adult from here on.

Andy, by email

Send him away

The same thing happened with our son’s best friend. It is a lonely, agonising situation. I’d remove him from school now and send him on a Raleigh expedition to Borneo. Three months of focused, physically tough teamwork, with strong leaders, no access to drugs or alcohol, helping poorer yet arguably happier communities – this could save him from the point of no return. He can complete his “education” later.

Name and address supplied

Next week’s dilemma

Dear Virginia,

My husband and I are separated and for the last year my husband’s taken my four-year-old son out on his own at weekends. For the last month, I’ve been persuaded to let my son stay over once a week, which means he has to meet his father’s new girlfriend. I have no objection, but I’ve been extremely upset to hear my son twice, when talking of her, referring to her as “Mum”. My husband says our son’s been told to call her by her Christian name, but I wonder. It hurts so much I feel like stopping him visiting, though of course I wouldn’t do that.

Yours sincerely,


What would you advise Sandra to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture