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Don’t Stand Idly By Whilst Legal Highs Ruin Teenage Lives

8 April 2014

Don’t Stand Idly By Whilst Legal Highs Ruin Teenage Lives

TOUGHLOVE issues list of recommendations for parents of drug-taking teens

Parents don’t need to stand idly by, whilst their teenage children ruin their own lives and those of other family members through use of legal highs, says TOUGHLOVE.

The parent support organisation has issued a list of recommendations (see below) for parents who suspect their teen might be experimenting with legal highs or other drugs.

Where drug use is suspected, the list recommends parents should search their homes for substances and confiscate any found. The search should also extend to their teens’ bedrooms.

In addition, TOUGHLOVE urges parents with drug-using teenagers to make contact with the organisation, either via its website or by telephoning its freephone helpline 0800 868 445. And it recommends participation in a local TOUGHLOVE Parent Support Group.

Now in its thirtieth year of operations, TOUGHLOVE has helped tens of thousands of New Zealand parents cope with the trauma of unacceptable teen behaviour through Support Group participation. Parents of teenagers using legal highs are currently amongst those whom the organisation is helping.

“The surge of concern over legal highs has also underscored the devastating impact that teenage drug abuse in general can have, not only on the lives, health and well-being of the young people themselves but also on those of their parents and siblings,” says veteran Auckland Support Group facilitator, Peter Altmann.

“When parents see their much-loved children harming themselves and others through substance abuse, a typical and understandable reaction is to blame Society in general and to support calls for stronger anti-drug legislation.

“There may well be a case for tougher legislation. But, on its own, this approach will do little to help either a drug-dependent teen or a parent whose self-confidence and peace of mind are in shreds because of a situation they can’t control,” he says.

“For this reason, we recommend that parents declare their homes to be ‘drug free zones’ and, if they suspect their teenagers are using drugs, they should search the house, including the teens’ bedrooms, for any suspect substances or related implements.

“It shouldn’t matter to a parent whether or not the drugs are legal or illegal. You have a right and a duty to your children to keep all drugs off your property,” Mr Altmann adds.

“Another temptation is for parents to avoid confrontation. This too is understandable. But whilst you pretend to ignore a teenage drug problem, your teen’s physical and mental health might be in jeopardy, as might be your own safety and that of your other children.

“It’s important not to let matters fester. But, equally, it’s important not to respond to the situation with anger, as you’re then likely to start a pointless slanging match or worse,” he says.

Mr Altmann points out that TOUGHLOVE Support Groups are all run by parents who’ve experienced at first hand the worry, hopelessness and heartache that can result from inappropriate teenage behaviour. They are, he says, non-judgmental, supportive and well-trained in the proven strategies that TOUGHLOVE recommends.

“One thing we stress is that there are no quick fixes for coping with out-of-control teens and that parents, just as much as their children, may well need to change their behaviour.

“There’s a widespread misconception that TOUGHLOVE stands for a harsh and punitive approach. But that’s simply not our position. Instead, we stress that teenagers need a clear sense of structure, boundaries and consequences. Our name reflects the realisation that parenting is a tough job and that love is an essential part of it,” he adds.

TOUGHLOVE Parent Support Groups meet on weekday evenings, with participation kept strictly confidential. Newcomers pay a one-off sum of just $40, with a gold coin donation expected at subsequent sessions.

Further information about TOUGHLOVE is available at or by telephoning the freephone helpline, 0800 868 445.

Coping With Legal Highs: Recommendations for parents of drug-taking teens:
• Declare your home a drug free zone
• If you think your teen is using legal highs or other drugs, search the house for them
• Include your teen’s bedroom in the search
• Confiscate any legal highs, other drugs or drug-related implements you find in your house
• Don’t let things fester. Speak to your teen at an early point about what you’ve discovered
• Don’t confront in anger. It could lead to a slanging match or worse
• Set consequences for further drug use and make sure your teen understands what’s involved
• Make sure your teen understands that you still love him/her and are serious about helping
• For further advice, contact TOUGHLOVE at or by dialling 0800 868 445
• Join a TOUGHLOVE Parent Support Group and learn effective and proven strategies for coping.


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