If you have teenage grandkids, you’ll want to read this… 139



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In news that may not have been on your radar this week, a 19-year-old girl died from a suspected drug overdose at a Sydney dance party. Was she a “typical” drug user? No. Was she using heroin or cocaine i.e. drugs associated with overdoses? No – she had ingested one and a half ecstasy pills. The exact ingredients are yet to be determined but this story has really hit home for so many families in our society.

One of the main things the media has been focusing on is that Georgina Bartter was a bright, beautiful young woman, and not that she had made a choice that ultimately killed her. Should we be opening up this conversation further for our teenage grandchildren and going past the superficial, face-value stuff? No matter how much you deny it, the reality is that there are a large amount of young people who are going to parties and taking drugs, whether we know it or not. It’s unlikely that Georgina’s poor parents would have known anything about their daughter’s drug taking activities because why would they? Do your grandchildren speak to their parents or you about what drugs they’re going to do on the weekend? I doubt it.

Are we sensationalising drug taking? And is this why our grandkids are taking illegal and deadly substances? Acclaimed actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died earlier this year but you’d be hard pressed to find an article that focussed on the fact that the man, although a much-loved father and friend, was a drug addict. It was almost as if his cause of death was irrelevant because a wonderful man had died. It is similar in the way the media has portrayed young Georgina – she was beautiful, but beautiful or famous or talented people are not exempt from making fatal mistakes or decisions. Granted, it is a devastating situation but how could it been avoided? Should she have had more drug education? Or did she, like the friends she left behind, need a shocking example to hammer the point home, as awful as that sounds?

What can be done to change the drug culture that we have in Australia? According to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, one in five 14-19 year olds has tried cannabis, 4.7 per cent had tried ecstasy and 2.1 per cent had tried cocaine. In Europe, pill-testing kits or booths are available in some venues so that the users can be informed about what’s in their illicit drugs. Young people are actually supportive of drug testing as well – research from the Australian National Council of Drugs shows that 82 per cent of the 2,300 young Australians aged between 16 and 25 years surveyed supported its introduction. And, as written in The Conversation, pill testing has been shown to change the black market in positive ways. Products identified as particularly dangerous that subsequently became the subject of warning campaigns were found to leave the market.

And how can we, humble grandparents, educate our grandchildren about drugs? They often forget that drug culture was rife when we were growing up: we had the swinging 60s and hippy 70s and the night club era of the 80s when our own children were going to nightclubs. We’ve seen it all and some of us have tried it all once or twice. We’ve seen more people die as a consequence than we care to remember, so why shouldn’t we share our knowledge? After all, we know all too well about kids who want to rebel – telling them they can’t or shouldn’t do something only makes them want to do it more. Plus, grandchildren feel more comfortable speaking to their grandparents, which puts us in a very important position. What will you do when the conversation comes up?

Perhaps this tragic news story about Georgina will start a progressive movement towards drug testing….or maybe it will become just another tragic story where invincible teenagers think it won’t happen to them.

So there is the million dollar question: should we be providing better information for drug takers so that they can make informed choices (ala STD and STI sexual health campaigns) or should we continue to attack the problem at the source like we currently are, i.e. drug busts and trying to shut down labs? Tell us your thoughts below.

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. Education and more information on the horrors of illicit drug taking must become available for the youth of today. This subject needs to be introduced into the school health system so that every child is aware of the dangers of drug taking. They need somewhere to freely ask questions without the worry of mum or dad or even grandparents having knowledge of their curiosity. Forewarned is forearmed.

    4 REPLY
    • Whilst I agree I also know that today’s young believe they are invincible and it won’t happen to them. Humans are weak willed.

    • That is so true Bronwen we can only hope our families and friends kids have enough sense to realise all illicit drugs can have serious side effects to their health and future wellbeing and that they have the sense to leave them alone.

  2. Will they listen? Perhaps this story might bring the reality home to them. They need a squad of young people to purchase drugs in these nightclubs & on the streets & the plain clothed police there to arrest them as soon as they hand the drug over. That may deter the drug pusher also. If they can’t buy them they can’t take them.

  3. I have already been through the drug effected granddaughter and luckily she is still alive and clean, many of my so called friends said to me I couldn’t/ wouldn’t do it it was all up to me and her worker but it started small like this girl. Luckily I was close to my grand kids and they know they can tell me anything.

  4. Education on this subject would be good so many young people don’t listen to parents or grandparents they think their ten foot high and bullet proof and it won’t happen to them

  5. Peer pressure plays a huge part. As parents we try our hardest to instil the way to stay away from smoking,drugs and alcohol,as grandparents we see the same hopefully happening,but the kids sense of invincibility and longing to be free of parental strictures sometimes overrides all that was taught. As far as I know, most schools have very good anti drug instruction, so to me it has to do more with how can one get their own individual strength and will to rise above having to “join the mob”? As grandparents we are able to make our mark in subtle ways,and let them know we are always there,unconditionally for them.

  6. Schools need to educate kids – but that education needs to come from reformed drug takers (and maybe some that are still hooked to show what it can do to a body!) as that is the best way to teach the dangers of illicit drug taking.

    1 REPLY
    • And if possible un reformed addicts too. 4 corners did a show re ice. The most powerful was the woman still hooked telling the story showing her damaged body and brain. She was trying to do one good thing re her addiction. She for me had the most impact tho the young ones I was sad for.

  7. I don’t have grandchildren that age yet, but I can talk to them and they listen, and I will certainly, as no doubt their parents will, tell them to keep away from drugs as they are bad news and you can become very addicted to them and that they can kill you . I believe there is education in schools about drugs already. I think a lot of young ones try it out as an experiment and think they will be okay. I only hope the friends with the unfortunate young lady have learnt a lesson out of this. I will also tell them that you are a long time dead, but I guess ultimately it is their choice.

  8. I agree with Catherine Keevill that peer pressure can play a huge part. Our son at 16 was involved with a much older male ( we didn’t know at the time) which lead to our son taking a half dose of LSD which put him in a coma for several days. He was never quite the same boy after that.our beautiful son decided to part this world when he was 20. Not saying that he didn’t know what he was doing but I think drug pushers are worse then the users. There need to be much harsher laws for the dealers. We use our son as an example to our two teenage grandchildren to try and show them the devastation and heartache taking drugs can do.

  9. The fact that the parents have no right of the slightest punishment of the kid, does not help either

  10. No matter how much education is out there, todays youth is going to ‘try’ drugs out, because their ‘friends’ are so ‘cool’ – yes a parents nightmare, we have to pray that our kids are ‘safe’ at all times, so sad ……

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