4 February 2019

From the Head of Senior School

Knowing what you put into your body

Just over a fortnight ago the College engaged Sideffect, an organisation dedicated to substance awareness and the education of young people, to speak to the Community.

Sideffect was started by Rodney Bridge after the death of his son, Preston. Preston died at the age of 16, after taking a synthetic form of LSD in February 2013, during his school ball after party. Following his family tragedy, Rod discovered that the LSD substance was made up of 25i nBome as well as a shopping list of other synthetic drugs. Preston lost his life that night based on one choice and had he known what he was taking, he may have made an entirely different decision. Sideffect was born out of the understanding that our youth need to be educated on substance use and be empowered to make informed decisions, with the help of parents, teachers and their community.

Rod and co-presenter David Hobbs, presented a session to parents and one to students in Years 10 to 12 at the College. The very powerful message was driven home to the boys by the fact that Rod's son, Preston, was a boy not unlike many of them. He attended a school not too far from us and the images of him attending his school ball and playing sport for his local team would have felt very familiar to many of our boys. According to Rod, the substance taken by Preston was 60 times stronger than LSD and the substance, known as 25i nBome, was one that was being imported through the internet from China under the disguise of being a research chemical. The message from Rod was about being aware of what you are putting into your body as only the producer of the drug has any idea what they are mixing into these substances.

One important message that I would like to present is that, thankfully, drug use is not the norm amongst Australian teens. While we offer presentations such as Rod's in the hope that it may supply just one more piece of good information to allow students to make informed decisions about what they put into their bodies, statistically speaking, the taking of such substances is not normal and hence we do not wish to normalise this in the minds of our students.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 collects information on illegal drug use, and alcohol and tobacco consumption among the general population in Australia. The key findings of the survey are below:

Alcohol

  • Young adults are drinking less and fewer 12 to 17 year olds are drinking.
  • More people in their 50s are consuming 11 or more standard drinks in one drinking session.

Illicit use of drugs

  • In 2016, around 3.1 million Australians reported using an illicit drug.
  • In 2016, the most common illicit drug was cannabis, followed by misuse of pharmaceuticals, cocaine and then ecstasy.
  • While overall use of methamphetamine has decreased, use of crystal methamphetamine (ice) continues to be a problem.
  • People who are using crystal methamphetamine (ice), are using it more frequently which increases the risks and harm.

In 2014 more than 23,000 secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years participated in the Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug survey.

The key findings of the survey are below:

Alcohol

  • In 2014, almost half of all Australian secondary students aged between 12 and 17 years had consumed alcohol in the year preceding.
  • The proportion of students who consumed alcohol in the week preceding the survey (current drinkers) increased with age, from four percent of 12-year-olds to 36 percent of 17-year-olds.

Illicit substances

  • Cannabis was the most commonly used illicit substance with 16 percent of students aged between 12 and 17 years ever using cannabis and seven percent using it in the month before the survey.
    • The proportion of students using cannabis increased with age.
  • Around three percent of all students reported having used ecstasy/MDMA at some time in the past year and only one percent indicated they had used ecstasy in the previous month.
  • The vast majority of secondary school students (98 percent) had never used amphetamines.
    • Lifetime use of amphetamines increased with age from one percent of 12-year-olds to four percent of 17-year-olds.
  • Use of hallucinogens, such as LSD, was extremely low with 97 percent of all students never having used them.
  • The use of opiates or narcotics such as heroin or morphine was very uncommon, with only two percent of all students ever having used this substance.
  • A small proportion of students (two percent) reported ever using performance or image enhancing drugs, such as steroids, without a doctor's prescription.
  • Use of synthetic substances such as synthetic cannabis was very low, with 98 percent of all students reporting no use in the past 12 months.

Synthetic Cannabis is a synthetic version of marijuana that mimics THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. It was discussed with the students by Rod and David and contains no marijuana. Often called K2/Spice, as well as several other names, synthetic marijuana is a mixture of plant material sprayed with synthetic psychoactive chemicals. Synthetic marijuana often looks like potpourri and typically is marked or labelled, "not for human consumption."

Drug use is a part of society and sheltering our loved ones from it is not always easy. There are no parenting skills or behaviours that guarantee a young person will never touch drugs. However, parents and guardians can reduce the possibility of a young person experiencing drug problems in a number of ways.

The following suggestions are from the Better Health Victoria website –

  • Foster a close and trusting relationship with your child from an early age and support and encourage positive behaviour.
  • Model appropriate behaviour such as drinking moderately, not smoking and not using illicit drugs.
  • Establish agreements and guidelines about what is acceptable behaviour around alcohol and drugs.
  • Encourage a healthy approach to life including good food, regular exercise and sports.
  • Encourage your child to have more than one group of friends.
  • Allow your child to practise responsibility and develop good decision-making skills from an early age.
  • Keep yourself informed about drugs and educate your child on the dangers of drug use. Do not exaggerate or make up information.
  • Have open and honest discussions about drugs.

Please view the Better Health website, if you would like further information.

Mr Dean Shadgett
Head of Senior School