Richmondshire District Council

Why young people might try drugs?

It is common for young people to try smoking, drinking alcohol and drugs; it’s part of ‘pushing boundaries’ and ‘risk taking behaviour’ associated with growing up. It does not mean every child who tries drugs will become addicted or become involved in crime. However, it is important that parents do not ignore the risks, or excuse it as their child ‘just having fun or experimenting’.

Young people try or use drugs for various reasons including fun, curiosity, peer pressure or to cope with difficult situations; the likelihood of this is increased if their friends or family do.

What is the law?

All illegal drugs are graded according to the risk they pose and are classified as either class A, B or C drugs. It is a criminal offence to possess, supply to others or manufacture any banned substances.

Psychoactive substances, commonly termed ‘Legal Highs’ are synthetic forms of illegal drugs, manufactured to make the user feel the effects of the real drug and are highly dangerous. Changes to the law in 2016 made it illegal to supply any ‘Legal High’ for human consumption; this includes selling, or even giving, psychoactive substances to friends or anyone else for free.

All drug related incidents will be recorded by the police. If your child is under 18 years old they may receive a warning or a caution if it is their first offence. Further offences, including selling drugs, may be dealt with by a Youth Court where they can receive a criminal record.

If you know your child is involved with drugs

As a parent you risk breaking the law by turning a blind eye. If you know that your child is using or sharing illegal drugs in your home and you do nothing to stop it, you may be committing an offence. If you take drugs from your child, you must either destroy them or hand them into the police as soon as possible. By having the drugs in your possession you may be committing an offence, even if you have no intention of using them.

Signs of drugs use

There is ‘no one sign’ to indicate a child may be using or experimenting with drugs. Common signs that parents can be aware of that may indicate drug use, especially changes which are out of character, include:

  • Appearance and lack of care about personal grooming
  • Openness with you; being secretive and dismissive
  • Mood swings; irritable and grumpy changing to happy and bright
  • Withdrawal from family members
  • Loss of interest in hobbies, sports and other favourite activities
  • Changed sleeping pattern; up at night and sleeping during the day
  • Changed eating habits; eat more or less at random times
  • Red or glassy eyes, sniffing or runny nose
  • Less or more, money and possessions

These changes can be simply related to growing up, not just displayed by young people using drugs.


  • Be open. Talk with your child about drugs as part of their growing up so they can be reassured about coming to you if they are ever affected
  • Encourage them to be aware and responsible to pressures associated with drug use to promote a positive and safe attitude
  • Educate yourself so you are aware of drug trends, signs and laws. Make sure they also have an understanding of the law
  • Know where your child is, who they are with and what they are doing

Further help

Often as parents you may be unable to resolve the situation for your child and will need help from professionals.Contact drugs services, counselling services, and self-help groups who can offer support to your child and family. Try and seek help and support from other parents, friends or teachers too.

Support Services

  • North Yorkshire Police - call 101 for non-emergency assistance or if your child is in danger call 999
  • North Yorkshire Horizons - call 01723 330 730
  • Crimestoppers - call 0800 555 111
  • NSPCC 24 Hour Child Protection Line - call 0808 800 500
  • Talk to Frank - call 0300 123 6600
A to Z of Services