Meth use affects teenagers too – here’s how you can help

Picture: File image
Picture: File image

WA’s meth problem isn’t just about adults.

Western Australia has more than twice the number of methamphetamine users than other states, according to a national survey – with the finding now borne out by scientific testing of Perth’s wastewater.

Alarmingly, 3.8 per cent of West Australians appear to be meth users, compared to 1.8 per cent nationally. That’s a pretty scary statistic, what with the crime increases, health problems and social dysfunction we know is caused by addiction to this drug.

Make no mistake, this drug is hardcore.

Meth is manufactured using harsh, caustic chemicals and is one of the most physically damaging drugs on the illegal market.

Repeated use can cause heart problems, violent and paranoid behaviour, confusion and insomnia, hallucinations and delusions, convulsions and ultimately death for prolonged heavy users.

Well that’s bad, I hear you say, but it’s only about adults isn’t it – nothing to do with kids?

Unfortunately, data from the 2013 Australian Drug Foundation survey found that 2.9 per cent of Australia’s 12 to 17-year-olds had also used meth.

Given WA’s current over-representation for this drug nationally, you’d have to assume that the real figure was closer to 5 or 6 per cent of WA’s teenagers right now.

Now that’s scary – 1 in 20 of our kids has probably used methamphetamines – also known as crystal meth, ice or glass.

So where are our kids getting such a terrible drug?

Sadly, the answer is often from family members, as drug use tends to be a role-modelled behaviour passed from one generation to the next.

But increasingly, as our communities become awash with easily accessible drugs, they can also be readily obtained from school, at parties, the local house that everyone knows ‘sells’, even strangers on street corners or in cars. And being highly addictive, it only takes one time to get hooked.

Police are working hard to control the flow of drugs into the community, but they’ve been saying for years that it’s an almost impossible battle to win while there is strong demand and the financial rewards for drug suppliers are so lucrative.

One answer to that problem is to take away the demand by getting our kids to realise that using dangerously addictive drugs like meth is a really, really bad idea.

There are great programs out there trying to get this message across to teenagers, and Constable Care’s Child Safety Foundation is no exception.

Through our Theatrical Response Group program, we’re working in Perth’s secondary schools every day to empower teenagers to make better decisions about using drugs.

We’re not telling them not to do it – we all know that doesn’t work – but instead having them research the issue for themselves, debate and discuss it with their peers, and then apply the powerful “Forum Theatre” process we use to create an interactive performance.

The performance helps friends, classmates and families to discuss the problem and safely explore ‘real world’ solutions.

It’s a sad reflection on today’s community that this is becoming core business for us.

It’s sadder still that our secondary schools invite us in, knowing they have to focus on the issue along with maths and english in order to protect their students.

But even our focus and the school’s focus isn’t enough – it’s only half of the story.

The other half lies with parents, whose job it is to keep the communication lines open through those difficult teenage years so kids know they can talk about the issue without fear of parent’s reaction.

And keeping an eye on your kids’ behaviour is important too.

Early signs that someone might be using meth include sleeplessness, too much energy, nervousness, weight loss, mood swings, sweatiness or pupil dilation.

If your teenager is experiencing some of these symptoms, then talking to them early and getting help is crucial.

As with so many of the youth problems we try and find solutions to, it seems to always come down to better communication in the end.