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Helping parents Know the Score; Scots duo front helpline campaign to educate mums and dads on class-A drugs so they can help their children avoid the dangers.

FOR parents of teenagers, alcohol and cannabis were the drugs associated with their own formative years, not class-A killers like heroin, ecstasy and cocaine which are linked to youth today.

So how do parents talk to teenagers who regard themselves as streetwise, savvy and sensible when you're worried about drugs but fear you know less about the risks than your child?

The Know the Score helpline has increasingly been taking calls from parents as well as youngsters seeking advice on drugs.

There was the 51-year-old mother who was worried about her son's large unresponsive eyeballs and said he was alert and talkative then depressed after the weekends.

Or the 27-year-old woman worried about her young sister's use of cocaine.

Other calls included the 14-year-old boy looking for information on LSD and a young student worried his family might find out he was taking heroin.

Communication, say experts, is vital between parents and their children, but information is essential if you are going to have the confidence to tackle the subject and answer questions. David McBeath and his daughter Jackie, are the real father and daughter fronting the Know the Score campaign for the Scottish Executive.

With their images plastered in newspapers urging parents and children to talk about drugs, they have no excuse not to broach the difficult subject.

David, 36, and 12-year-old Jackie represent the struggle ordinary people often have in tackling tricky issues.

'I want to talk to her about drugs but it's not easy. I can't find the right words,' say the campaign's adverts, but David made it his priority to make sure he and Jackie did find the words.

David has witnessed the devastating effects of drugs up close after helping his best friend withdraw from heroin and get clean.

As a former youth worker he also knows how drugs can destroy young lives.

David said: "I've had friends who were deeply involved in drugs like speed, heroin and hash and I'm proud to say I helped them get clean and supported their rehabilitation.

"The only reason I agreed to do the drugs campaign is because I do know what drugs can do and I have seen friends' lives ruined.

"But people will see these billboards and adverts and they might make a difference."

Making sure his daughter understood the dangers and never felt uncomfortable talking to him about drugs was one of David's priorities.

He said: "When you have kids you know certain things are going to come up, like smoking, drinking, sex, anything that's out there which might affect them. Smoking and drinking are things we had spoken about because my father died with cirrhosis of the liver and I quit smoking last year, but it was only a matter of time before we had to talk about drugs."

On a recent trip to the local shopping centre in Bathgate, they passed a group of youths smoking and Jackie said she could smell hash.

"It set off alarm bells for me," said David, who now works in a garage.

"I thought 'oh no, how does she know that?'"

But the incident was the perfect opportunity to broach the wider subject of drugs.

About to start high school, Jackie told her dad she already had primary school classmates who smoked and she'd heard of hash, heroin, ecstasy and cocaine.

David said: "When you hear about hard drugs like cocaine being available to teenagers, parents don't know what to do because these were not things we had access to at that age."

After their chat David realised he didn't have all the answers Jackie might need so he called the helpline and requested the guide for parents.

He said: "There was so much stuff I didn't know about, such as what many of these drugs looked like.

"I didn't know cocaine could be brown, for instance."

Jackie and her dad read the booklet together and all of their questions were answered.

David said: "Sometimes it's hard knowing what to say but I go back to my own childhood and think about how my parents could have done it differently and much better.

"I believe in education about drugs but I think it needs to frighten you. Drugs are frightening and children need to know that.

"I just hope Jackie will have the confidence not to try them and to always speak to me, her mum or one of her teachers."

Sharp enough to notice things, Jackie can recognise the signs of an addict and felt a primary school information cartoon about drugs was patronising.

She said: "My dad and I read and talked about the dangers and he explained how dealers can add things like rat poison to drugs to make them go further."

But her role in the Know the Score campaign has led to a bit of teasing at school, which she has been brave enough to laugh off and she has been supported by her friends' whole-hearted encouragement.

Jackie said: "It is important that kids can talk about these things with their families and even when I'm 15 or 16 I hope I will still be able to talk to my dad if I have any questions."

DRUGS - WHAT EVERY PARENT SHOULD KNOW

Drugs and their street names

Cannabis - Dope, hash, grass, blow, smoke.

Speed - Whizz, sulph, uppers, amphetamine sulphate.

Poppers - Rush, locker room, snappers, liquid gold, nitrates.

Solvents - Glue, gas.

Tranquillisers - Benzos, tranx, jellies, eggs.

Ecstasy - E, eckies, love doves, disco burgers, MDMA.

Acid - LSD, tabs, trips, stars, white lightening.

Cocaine - Coke, Charlie, snow, base.

Heroin - Brown, junk, smack, scag, H.

'I know what drugs can do and I've seen friends' lives ruined. These ads might make a difference'

CAPTION(S):

CHAT ROOM: Young Jackie knows she can turn to her dad whenever she has any questions about drugs' DEALING DANGER: Drugs are now in school playgrounds' TEENAGE TEMPTATION: Cannabis and ecstasy, left, are just two of the drugs available' PICTURE: REUTERS
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 13, 2006
Words:990
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