KEEPING children away from drugs is proving extremely difficult, and there is frustration in some communities about a weak institutional response.
A Shannon mother, who spoke to us, has recently discovered her 14-year-old daughter has been taking drugs. She says it is going to be very hard to keep her away from the suppliers.
“Short of locking her in the house and walking her to school and home every day, there’s very little I can do to keep her safe. I know the area she is buying the drugs, she has to walk past this place, it’s called the Boreen. It’s a known fact that’s where young lads have been dealing drugs for years. The Guards know this.
“Drugs have been out there for a long time, the Guards know this and they’re doing nothing. A couple of years ago the trees were cut back to try and discourage them but it didn’t. The street lights get fixed and they break them again the next day,” she told us.
Karen (not her real name) said she is well aware of the dangers of drugs and unsuccessfully tried to get the message through to her child. “I’m not too impressed, to say the least. It’s not the way she’s been brought up, like, there’s zero drugs tolerance in my house. The kids have always been told to stay away. If someone offers you something, don’t take it. It just seems it’s the way the town is going, unfortunately.”
Illegal drugs have been on sale in Shannon for the past few decades, but Karen believes the problem has intensified very recently, with feckless suppliers now happy to sell to children.
“I’ve been a teenager in Shannon. We always knew growing up that there were drugs there, but they weren’t given to kids. I would have been 18 or 19 before drugs would have been offered to me and it would only have been a joint. I have a 14-year-old now looking at me saying, ‘Ah yeah, sure that’s nothing.’ It’s the attitude of her, all the stuff that she’s been sold by these lads who are selling her stuff. I’ve gotten names, I know who they are, I know who their families are. They’re not much older than her.”
She says young people – her own daughter included – have no idea of the risks they are taking. “It’s just so readily available, and it doesn’t seem to knock a stir out of them. They’ve all been told it’s fine, you won’t be addicted. But she is, I know she is.”
WHILE it was only recently that she found out drug abuse was the reason, Karen had seen changes in her daughter’s personality in recent months, while she was shedding weight and sleeping very poorly.
One evening after the drug abuse came to light, the girl took off from home, and Karen found it hard to get her to come back. “I came home from work, there was no sign of her. I rang her, I said to her to come on home, we have to get things sorted. She didn’t come back till four o’clock in the morning, after hours and hours of me constantly ringing her and texting her and begging and pleading with her to come home. When she came home she was manic, she was wired to the blue side of the moon.”
While her daughter is only 14, Karen says there are even younger children taking drugs, with no real response to the problem. “I’ve lived here my whole life and you could always get a bit of weed if you wanted it, or a few pills or a bit of speed. There have always been drugs in this town, but there was always kind of a rule about it; you didn’t give them to kids. Now they don’t care. I had a woman message me, her 12-year-old son was smoking weed up the Boreen with my 14-year-old.
“He’s only a kid. The most illegal thing he should be doing is filling his paddling pool with a hose, not smoking weed. Something needs to be done. The Guards just seem to be doing very little.”
Karen can’t leave any money lying around the house now, as her teenager will hoover up whatever she sees, as is the reality of living with a heavy drug user.
SHE feels her daughter has fallen in with bad company this year, and efforts to prise her away from the new friends have failed. “She was always a quiet child. Then in the past six months she started hanging around with a different crowd, an older crowd. She was told, stay away from them, stay away from them, but she wouldn’t listen. She was grounded, her phone was taken away from her and the whole lot, but as soon as that was over, she was back with them. I know one of their mothers and I rang her and told her, tell your son stay away from my daughter, he’s 17, he’s too old to be hanging around with her. This was after I rang him and told him to stay away from her, he told me to f**k off.
“It’s not that I’m blaming the friends… There’s just too much of it [drugs] in the town.”
Asked about the impact on herself, Karen says that as upset as she is, she has to remain focused. “Yeah, it’s tough. It’s not devastating as such, because I can’t be devastated about it. I need to have my wits about me and I need to figure out what is the right course of action to take for my daughter.”
She has just discovered that it’s very difficult to get support for such a young person with a drug problem. “I’ve been in touch with the GP, I was over with her and she’s given me a few numbers of different places I can ring, but there is actually no place in this country that will take someone under 15 years of age.”
The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are not trained to deal with drink and drugs intervention, Karen says, and she feels there is a gap in services, with few options available until her daughter turns 15 later this year.
Last week, The Clare Champion interviewed an 18-year-old from Shannon who has already been in rehab twice, and Karen is very worried that her daughter could be on a similar dark journey.
She is doing everything she can to protect her daughter, but she says there are three dealers operating from the estate she lives in, and with the drugs so widely available in Shannon, there is a limit to what parents can do. “It doesn’t matter what way you bring your child up, at the end of the day you can’t be responsible for them all the time. There’s no point saying he comes from a nice family or she comes from a nice family. Parents can’t be with their kids 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”