How to Educate Your Child about the Dangers of Legal Highs and Depression


Consumption of drugs can be a symptom of depression. A depressed teen may use so-called legal highs to find some relief from depression, but at a cost for their health. To forbid teens to use drugs makes things worse, to understand where teens depression comes from is the right thing to do.

Just because a high is legal, does not necessarily mean it is safe. Who uses them varies widely. They’re as popular among teenagers as they are with young professionals. Not wanting to be classed as “illegal drug users”, they choose to use legal highs for two main reasons: the legal ramifications if caught are favourable in comparison with banned substances, and access to legal highs is easy via online stores and in clubs.

Governments are banning legal highs as quickly as possible. One such drug, mephedrone (M-Cat), is associated with an intense, one-hour high. However, depression has been observed the day after using this drug.

It is true that parents cannot watch their children 24/7 to keep them away from these drugs. The only way for you to somehow protect them is by educating them about the dangers they pose, particularly those related to mental health.

If you are struggling with how to address this with your kids, here are some ideas for a frank discussion.

  • Before you bring up the subject, get educated yourself. Seek out reliable information before talking about legal highs. You can download the free parents’ handbook by Maryon Stewart at, which is a good starting point.
  • Ask your child whether he or she has seen or heard about legal highs. Note that many legal highs are actually illegal drugs that have been only slightly changed in laboratories. Their provenance is still mostly unknown.
  • Encourage and listen to your child regularly. Let them know that they can talk with you about any stress or challenges they may be facing, e.g. peer pressure to experiment. Let them understand that anyone can be faced with feelings of depression and frustration at some point in their life. Reinforce that the best way to deal with it is to talk about it and ask for support (ideally from you, but professional counselling is also available). Note that it has been reported that some young people have experienced depression, addiction and other mental health problems after using legal highs.
  • Let your child know that caffeine (a stimulant) and alcohol (a depressant) can promote or worsen depression as they cause chemical changes in the maturing brains and central nervous systems of children and teens. Synthetic cannabinoids put youth at risk because the smoke entering their lungs can affect and/or worsen depression as well as other mental health conditions.
  • Inform them that energy drinks, which can contain high levels of caffeine, sugar, herbal and chemical stimulants, can promote or worsen depression by affecting changes in young people’s brains, central nervous systems and metabolisms. In fact, these are banned in some countries.
  • Ask your child to be careful at parties. The unexpected side effects of drinking alcohol along with legal highs have included accidental death and paralysis, even if nothing unusual happened on previous occasions.
  • Invite your child to visit to watch a video, hear true stories, and learn more about legal highs and their dangers.
  • Admit that more research needs to be done on the dangers of legal highs. Note that doctors are especially concerned about their effects on children, whose brains and bodies are still developing.

Additional information for parents

Certain prescription drugs are associated with depression and suicidal thinking and action. These include asthma medications called leukotriene inhibitors, and the acne drug isotretinoin (Accutane). Also linked to depression are oral contraceptives, high blood pressure medications, and statins prescribed for high cholesterol.

If your child has questions which you can’t answer, promise to look into the issue and get back to him or her.

Should your child show signs of depression be sure to have him or her evaluated by certified medical professionals (such as those found at Randstad Care) promptly. Signs of depression can include:

  • continuous feelings of sadness or hopelessness;
  • feeling irritable or angry;
  • withdrawing socially;
  • feeling overly sensitive to rejection;
  • loss of interest in daily activities;
  • changes in appetite or sleeping patterns;
  • crying or verbal outbursts.

Help your child to feel good in natural ways. Encourage him or her to eat healthy foods, exercise and get enough rest.

An important final note for parents

Parents who take the time and effort to take care of their children’s psychological well-being are setting a good example for their children. The time honoured saying is true: children imitate their parents. The more that they see stability at home, as well as courage and honesty played out in their parents’ lives, the more positive the outcome should be. And the less likely it will be that you’ll have to have a conversation about legal high a few months or years down the line.

Isabella is a freelance writer who dreams of travel, but never seems to get the opportunity to do so. She’s an all around writer who loves blogging about self-help/self-development topics.

Image by Anita Peppers.