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attitudes and values

  • Why getting clear about attitudes, beliefs and values is helpful in looking at drug issues

  • The Drug Triangle model: drug, person, environment

  • Using 'The Drug Triangle' to think about drug using situations

  • Drug issues and ways of addressing them

How to respond to the demands of teenagers is altogether a more complicated and challenging matter than responding to the relatively straightforward demands of small children.

  • 'I don't need to be home that early!'

  • 'It's not fair if I can't use my phone when I want to.'

The issues sheet Decision-making and responsibility is a starting point for working out what you can leave to your adolescent to have control over, and where you want to set boundaries.

Assisting our teenagers to make decisions about drugs, including alcohol and tobacco, can be particularly difficult for parents. Even though this is a society which tolerates the use of some drugs in some circumstances e.g. alcohol, people have very strong opinions about others. But where do these ideas come from? To be able to usefully communicate with your teenager on this subject, you need to be aware of your values and attitudes and how they may influence the communication. This issues sheet suggests that parents try to be clear about what is most important for them in relation to drug issues, and their reasons for holding these views.

What is most important?Why getting clear on attitudes, beliefs and values is helpful

As a parent thinks about their attitudes and beliefs in relation to a range of topics, they may find that some of their opinions are inconsistent. It's quite common for people to hold many different attitudes at once, even if they contradict each other. Values refers to the beliefs and behaviours that are most important to a person, the ones they turn to when they need to work through contradictions and conflicts.

The case of the teenager with the mobile phone debt shows the kinds of choices that parents can be faced with. In this example the parent respects the teenager's need to make their own decisions and live with the consequences. This respect is an important value. When the huge phone bill comes in, the parent has to think again about values. Is it an important value to protect their teenager from harm? Will there be more harm done to their teenager if they can't use their phone to call home? If the parent thinks that this is so, they might pay the bill, even though this conflicts with their value about decision-making. They have worked out what their primary value is.

Values and drugs

Getting clearer about values means looking at your attitudes and beliefs in relation to drugs (including alcohol and tobacco), and also looking at other attitudes and beliefs that it is possible to have. You will need to think about what the possible results of various beliefs and resulting behaviours might be and how they impact upon your values.  These results might take the form of a harm experienced by your teenager.  There may be some issues on which you are prepared to change your mind when you bring this perspective into view. But during this process you will ask yourself which beliefs are the ones that are most basic and important, the ones you would not want to give up, the ones that you would stick to when you can't stick to everything because they correspond to the values that you hold.

You can begin by asking questions such as: Where does my information about drugs including alcohol and tobacco come from? How does my background and experience affect my thinking about these drugs?  What would influence the way teenagers regard particular drugs?  What opinions would they be likely to hold and why?

You may have had personal experiences with certain drugs; you may have been close to someone who had a drug or alcohol problem. Perhaps you have been brought up to have certain opinions and beliefs about a drug, for example because of religious faith or cultural beliefs.

You may have developed your attitudes and beliefs without consciously being aware of where they come from for example - from hearing other people talk, from the media, from knowing that the drug is legal or not legal, from attitudes your family held.

Working out where your beliefs come from, whether they are soundly based and the values that are now most important to you are key steps in the process of making decisions about drugs.

Exploring your values andbeliefsExploring the drug use situation

The Drug

When considering your feelings about a particular drug think about how the possible harms caused by its use can be affected by:

  • The way the drug is taken (for example, if it is swallowed, injected or inhaled)

  • Where the drug comes from (its manufacture and resulting purity or corruption)

  • Its impact upon the body

  • How much of the drug a person takes (the dose)

  • What other substances are used at the same time.

The Person

When thinking about the use of this drug we should also consider how the potential for harm is affected by the state or situation of

  • The person taking the drug (such as your teenager, or yourself) for example:

  • How old the person is

  • What experience of the drug they have had previously (if any)

  • What gender the person is

  • How mature the person is 

  • What mood, state of mind the person is in (depressed, risk taking, happy and sociable, nervous and insecure)

The Environment

And how about considering how the place/ situation in which the drug is taken affects possible outcomes of drug use, for example:

  • If the drug is legal?

  • Whether the person is alone or with supportive friends

  • What current advertising is saying about the drug or recent media stories

  • parents; unknown source; dealer

Using the drug triangle to think about valuesWHERE TO NEXTSOURCES

Bui, C., Hough, A., Munro, G.D. & Peake, M. (1994). Reducing the risk: An alcohol action program for schools Australian Drug Foundation Youth Alcohol and Community Project.

Family Drug Help. (2003). Is someone you care about using drugs? A guide for families coping with alcohol and other drug use

Health Promotion Services, Health Department of Western Australia. (1995). Parents: Talking to teenagers about drugs

Health Promotion Unit, Health Department of Victoria. (1988). The Victorian Drug Strategy: Action Planning Manual

Simon, S.B., Howe L.W. & Kirschenbaum H. (1972). Values clarification: A handbook of practical strategies for teachers and students. New York: Dodd, Mead.

Prepared by the UnitingCare Moreland Hall