Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Should I tell the parents about their teenage daughter's drug habit

My daughter tells me her friend has been taking all kinds of drugs - What should I do?

Share

Dear Virginia,

My daughter is at university with a troubled school friend, who has self-harmed, seen therapists and so on. She is currently on anti-depressants. Now my daughter tells me her friend has been taking all kinds of drugs – ketamine, ecstasy and cocaine. I feel this must be particularly harmful to this girl. My daughter says her attitude is, “Well, I’m already on antidepressants so I may as well take some more drugs.” My daughter has sworn me to secrecy but I feel if the positions were reversed, as a parent, I’d want to be told. What should I do?

Virginia says...

Like you, I'd imagine that taking antidepressants and illegal drugs is even more dangerous than taking either on their own. But not much, if any, research has been done on the effects.True, young people are almost certainly going to be tempted to try drugs at university – if they haven't already at school. But while many people get away with being reckless when they're young, many don't, and the people who are especially vulnerable are those who have a genetic disposition to mental problems in the first place. Just like your daughter's friend.

All the drugs your daughter mentions her friend is taking are “psychological” drugs – they can be addictive, and can play havoc with people's brains. This girl's attitude, that she is already taking prescribed mind-altering drugs so why not take more, is pretty skewed. Her doses of antidepressants are being carefully controlled. Her use of illegal drugs isn't.

But should you tell? How well do you know the parents? And if you did tell them, what then? Your daughter would feel betrayed and there would be little that the parents could actually do except hold up their hands in horror. The girl is an adult. Unless she goes willingly, she can't be compelled to go to rehab – and anyway, what's to say she is addicted to anything? It sounds as if she is just experimenting, albeit very dangerously.

There is no reason you shouldn't open up a discussion about drugs at university with your daughter's friend's parents. You can say you hear they're everywhere and isn't it frightening. But best of all might be to press your daughter to let you break your promise. Or at least persuade her friend to go to the doctor for an opinion. Doctors have to treat everything confidentially. Or ask her to get advice from a drugs helpline. If your daughter checks out the risks of these drugs on the drug help agency at frank.co.uk, she might feel even more concerned.

What is your daughter really trying to tell you? That she's trying drugs as well, and checking your reaction? Or is she just concerned for her friend and despite her begging you not to tell, her underlying message is that she does want you to tell the parents? Would she allow you to talk to this girl directly? Keep talking to your daughter and you'll eventually find the answer.

Readers say... Be a whistle-blower

Take the bull by the horns and tell her parents what you have heard. Explain to your daughter why that is the right thing to do. As a whistle-blower, you may encounter hostility all round, and it will almost certainly mean the end of your daughter's friendship with her schoolmate. But if you help prevent the girl's descent into addiction, that will be a small price to pay.

Elinor Forbes, by email

Do it together

I think you need to tell your daughter that you understand the desire to keep this girl's counsel, but that you think this is leaving her in too much danger, and perhaps discuss with your daughter how you both might persuade her friend to get further help. If she is taking this self-destructive attitude to drugs then it is clear the treatment for her depression isn't working. Perhaps, working together, you can make sure this young lady asks for the proper help she needs. However, if she refuses, then, as she is an adult, I wouldn't suggest taking it on yourself to inform her parents, as difficult as it may be to stay silent.

Penny, by email

Next week's dilemma

Dear Virginia,

Seven years ago, I broke up with a man I was deeply in love with. I got pregnant and he said I had to have an abortion – which I did – and then he dumped me and got another woman pregnant and married her. I was devastated. Now, seven years later, I find my ex and his family have moved near me and I'm often bumping into them in the street. I keep thinking this little boy could have been mine and it upsets me so much and brings everything back. I can't move. What can I do?

Yours sincerely,

Charlotte

What would you advise Charlotte to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemma is published will receive a £25 voucher from the wine company (thewinecompany.co.uk; twitter.com/thewineco)

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

In Sickness and in Health: Cheers Jacko, the kindness of strangers is a great tonic

Rebecca Armstrong
A Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian girl dressed in Santa Claus stands outside the Saint Porfirios church in Gaza City on December 22, 2013  

Finished your wrapping? Then spare a thought for the needy this Christmas

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
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'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick