Teens and Drugs in Thailand

Parents often fear that their children will fall into drug and alcohol use. Indeed, drugs and alcohol can become very destructive. Substance abuse and addiction tears families apart, ruins careers, and cost society untold amounts of money. The good news is that treatments are available and improving rapidly.

Parents may ask themselves what they can do, if they suspect their child is using drugs. Research shows that the biggest predictor for success in the prevention of substance abuse and addiction is early intervention (i.e., treating the problem before it become unmanageable). If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol you should seek professional help as soon as possible. Again early intervention is the key!

People often have common misconceptions when it comes to drugs/alcohol, such as the notion that alcohol is not a drug. By all measures, alcohol is a drug and perhaps one of the most destructive. The legality of a drug has nothing to do with its potential to wreck lives.

Another misconception is the idea of “gateway drugs.” In other words, the idea that some drugs lead to further drug use while other drugs do not. Often, marijuana is defined as a gateway drug. Parents mistakenly believe that as long as their child has not started smoking marijuana, they will not go on to use other “heavy” drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. The truth is your child’s first encounter with drugs could be any drug. They may smoke cigarettes first then try prescription pain killers and then marijuana next. Just as likely, they could try alcohol first then excstasy then marijuana. The point is, in my experience, the progression of drug use may or may not follow some sort of predictable pattern.

Drugs and alcohol are readily available to teens and adolescents in Thailand, just like in most parts of the world. In addition to all the other negative consequences of drugs, Thailand’s legal system deals harshly with drug offences. This includes heavy fines and long jail sentences. To say the least, you should have a conversation with your children about Thailand’s drug laws—especially if you come from a country where drug laws may be much laxer.

Parents may find themselves asking ‘how do I know if my kids are drinking or using drugs?’ Although it may not be the same for each teen or adolescent, there are a few common warning signs to which you should pay attention. For example, how is your child doing in school? Poor grades and overall school performance may be an indicator of drug use. Has your child stopped engaging in sports or activities that he or she once enjoyed? Has your child’s overall behavior and attitude changed, such as becoming depressive or irritable. Lastly, is your child friends with other teens who drink or use drugs? This is perhaps the biggest predictor of drug/alcohol use in teens. Teens rarely hangout with others who drink and use drugs and not partake themselves.

Sometimes parents already have a hunch that their child is using drugs, but choose to ignore it in hopes that it will go away on its own. Parents sometimes suffer from their form of denial, as well.  In my opinion, if you have some sort of nagging feeling that your child has a problem with drugs or alcohol, then you are probably right. Call it a parental instinct!

What should you do if you suspect that your child is drinking or using drugs? As I stated in the beginning, early intervention is the key! Don’t wait until the problem has become so big that it is unmanageable. If you have any concerns at all, seek professional help. Make an appointment with a counselor, preferably one with experience in treating substance abuse and addictions. Drug testing kits are available at most international clinics at hospitals. You can choose to make drug testing a part of your child’s routine health check-ups.

Lastly, don’t accept or tolerate alcohol or drug use by your children. This is maybe the most important thing that a parent can do. Some parents tend to accept some drug and alcohol use as part of growing up. In my experience, this is the wrong message to send. Although experimentation may be part of adolescence, parents can implicitly contribute or enable alcohol and drug use if they send the message that it is ok.

Drug/Alcohol abuse and addiction can affect anyone, regardless of race, religion, socioeconomic status or individual intelligence. However, age appears to play a big role. Rarely does alcohol/drug abuse and addiction begin after the age of 30. It almost always has its roots in adolescence. You can play a huge role in ensuring that your child lives a drug-free life. Nevertheless, there are times when professional help may be necessary. If you find yourself being concerned about your child’s drug use, I would advise you to consult with a professional.


Eric K. Mason, MA, MS

Eric is an American Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Clinical Addictions Specialist, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, and an Internationally Certified Advanced Drug & Alcohol Counselor. Eric is the director of Lighthouse Human Services & Consulting in Bangkok where he provides general counseling, as well as mental health and substance abuse counseling. He may be reached at lighthousehumanservices@gmail.com.



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