March 2009

Arts & Letters

‘Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs: What Your Kids Really Want and Need to Know About Alcohol and Drugs’ by Paul Dillon

By Chris Middendorp

Paul Dillon’s calm guide to adolescent drug and alcohol use is a handy anodyne for all those parents who fear they will overheat like the reactor core at Chernobyl if they ever find a bag of pills in 16-year-old Sebastian’s sock drawer. Dillon is an Australian drug educator whose experiences over 25 years have taught him that prevalent community opinions about substance use are often based on myths which have been assiduously cultivated by TV police dramas and spurious current-affairs bulletins. “As much as the media would love to tell you that there are drug dealers hanging out at the end of the schoolyard,” he writes, “this is not the case, and illicit drugs are not that easy to come by.”

Are bongs safer than joints? Is cannabis 30 times stronger than it used to be? Does one of the drugs used in drink spiking sterilise the victim? There isn’t a drug myth going that Dillon doesn’t examine and neatly debunk. Even the most inured and world-weary reader is likely to uncover something new here. Dillon’s tone is as informal as it is instructive, and he dispenses wisdom without generating moral panic. “Most young people have never tried illegal drugs,” he reminds us. “They have no interest in these substances and never will.”

But Dillon also acknowledges that, should a teenager experiment with substances and get drunk, wasted or otherwise intoxicated, it could help immeasurably if his parents or friends know how to provide the appropriate care. Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs includes some practical strategies that, if followed, could prevent serious brain injury or death.

While emotive government ad campaigns provoke angst and sometimes ridicule for their gaudy depictions of stoned, obstreperous teenagers in drug-induced peril, this pragmatic and humane book prefers to eschew cant and hysteria and allow the facts to speak for themselves. It promotes tolerance and open communication, and it recognises that drugs are a fact of life: they will not simply go away. The information Dillon provides here will help ensure that when you decide to have that little drug talk with your children (or anyone else’s), you will actually have something worth saying.

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