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Drug concerns … Parents are being urged to watch for signs of drug use by their children. Pictured is a haul of ecstacy tablets seized by police in the North Island. File Photo

By RACHEL MACDONALD

Rangiora schoolchildren are being targeted by drug dealers, with police warning parents to watch for behavioural changes that go along with substance abuse.

A parent has called in the name of a teenage dealer to police after discovering her own teenage son was using drugs.

She had been shocked to find her son had been lying about his whereabouts, instead attending parties where he was buying his next high.

“I would drop him at his usual weekly activity, but then he would get a text with details of where that night’s party was,” she says.

“There are drug houses in Rangiora and my son was finding them.

“He was getting out of it on weed, acid, MDMA (ecstasy) and mushrooms, and then was back where he should have been, to be picked up at the scheduled time, but behaving really strangely.

“These are country kids,” she says. “They are very vulnerable, and parents of teenagers like me need to be way more aware of what’s going on.”

Rangiora Senior Sergeant Paul Reeves says drugs are everywhere and relatively easily to get, which is one problem.

“If you notice a marked difference in your child’s behaviour, such as withdrawing from family or friends, that should raise a warning flag,” he says.

“The first port of call should be to get them to a GP to get some idea of what’s going on. It might not be drugs, it could be depression, but either way, seeing a doctor sets them on a path to getting help.”

The other major problem, he says, is that drug users of all ages can have no idea what they are buying.

“A lot of these drugs are home-made. There have been cases of industrial cleaners finding their way into the mix and, recently, rat poison being found in MDMA. These aren’t just a recreational high; they can kill you.”

He says it is important that parents talk with their children explaining the risks, effects and harms of buying and using illicit substances. Not discussing it fixes nothing, he says.

The Rangiora mother, who asked not to be named, agrees.

“We’ve had so many conversations in the last week, since our lives started to unravel,” she says.

“There’s no point pretending, like some of the schools, that it isn’t happening, because it is. These are lovely boys, good kids, who are being sucked into this cycle of drugs and dishonesty, and that’s also feeding into suicide and attempted suicide. We need to be talking about this.”

She has found that going back to treating her son like an 8-year-old – providing the level of support parents tend to offer a much younger child – is delivering results.

“I discovered he wasn’t eating breakfast and wasn’t taking lunch to school, so I’ve even gone back to packing his lunchbox. It’s about cutting through that teenage sense of independence and bringing them back to ground,” she says.

“My son is now going through a lot of emotional turmoil and we’re just trying to find ways to help him through that.”

She says standard drug education in schools isn’t getting the message across, when dealers specifically have young people in their sights.

She says this is especially the case when the school refuses to realise there is a problem or when concern for a child’s, family’s, or school’s reputation prevents someone from approaching the police.

“Not all of these young people listen to, or truly understand, what they’re being told, but a huge problem should have a huge response. Maybe the schools should bring ex-users in to talk to children; people who have been there and know what it’s like.”

She feels the transition between childhood and adulthood is such a huge leap, and society does not seem to manage that well.

“We need to be able to discuss, really discuss, issues like drugs and suicide, as a family and as a community as a whole. Part of this is realising Rangiora is not the happy little country town it once was, and sweeping major concerns like drug use and teen suicide under the carpet achieves nothing.

“We need to be talking about this, raising awareness and identifying answers. When you can fully understand and explain things, it’s harder for them to happen,” she says.

People can report drug concerns to police at their local station or calling the anonymous Crimestoppers Information Line on 0800 555111.