Ad­dic­tion a mid­dle-class phe­nom­e­non

Buy­ing booze for par­ties ‘ir­re­spon­si­ble’

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - RACHAEL PELLS

Mid­dle-class par­ents are con­tribut­ing to­wards their chil­dren’s drink and drug ad­dic­tions by pro­vid­ing them with ex­pen­sive wine and vodka, a top ad­dic­tion ther­a­pist has claimed.

In­creas­ing num­bers of teenagers are seek­ing help for their ad­dic­tions, but par­ents are all too of­ten turn­ing a blind eye, ac­cord­ing to Mandy Sali­gari, founder of the Char­ter re­hab clinic in Har­ley Street, Lon­don.

“Par­ents of peo­ple I’ve treated have given them bot­tles of vodka to go to a party with, aged 15… I think it’s deeply ir­re­spon­si­ble,” she said.

“The idea is, the par­ent gives the child a de­cent bot­tle of spir­its or wine so that they don’t end up drink­ing ‘rub­bish’. That’s just naive, be­cause the child will drink both.”

Sali­gari, said nearly twothirds of her clients were aged 16-21 – a “sig­nif­i­cant rise” on a decade ago. Many chil­dren as young as 13 were com­ing in with a range of ad­dic­tions.

The mid­dle classes were par­tic­u­larly sus­cep­ti­ble to adopt­ing long-term health prob­lems re­lat­ing to ad­dic­tion, she said, be­cause the early in­di­ca­tions were “hid­den in plain view”.

“They ap­pear to have ev­ery­thing, ed­u­cated par­ents, nice homes, com­fort­able back­grounds and good schools… They’ve got prospects and yet there is this pat­tern of abus­ing drugs and al­co­hol.

“I am aghast some­times at the naivety of some par­ents: ‘It’s not my child, it’s ev­ery­one else’s child… I turn a blind eye be­cause I don’t know what to do if my child has a prob­lem.’”

Mid­dle-class par­ents were typ­i­cally un­able to spot or smell cannabis, de­spite the “vast ma­jor­ity” of 15- and 16-year-olds hav­ing had “some ex­pe­ri­ence” of the drug, she added. They were of­ten un­will­ing to seek help for their chil­dren be­cause of the stigma sur­round­ing ad­dic­tion, or “fear of be­ing thought of as a fail­ure”.

“Par­ents are fright­ened to hand their ‘most trea­sured pos­ses­sions’ – a term they use to re­fer to their chil­dren – over to some­body else. Some­one who they think is go­ing to mess with their mind be­hind closed doors, and that’s ter­ri­fy­ing.

“I don’t think par­ents are to blame but they are re­spon­si­ble. We al­ways say to par­ents, you didn’t cause it, you can’t con­trol it, you can­not cure it – but you have con­trib­uted to it.”

Sali­gari’s com­ments come as new re­search is pub­lished to sug­gest pupils from more priv­i­leged back­grounds are more likely to end up with drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tions later in life.

The long-term study by aca­demics from Ari­zona State Univer­sity found girls from pri­vate schools in par­tic­u­lar were as much as three times more likely to de­velop such prob­lems as an adult than their less af­flu­ent peers.

“I think it starts as a re­sult of stress,” said Sali­gari, whose re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion clinic spe­cialises in fam­ily and group ther­apy. “Their fam­i­lies worked very hard and con­tinue to work hard to main­tain these high stan­dards of liv­ing.

“Par­ents might be work­ing all the hours in the day, their stress lev­els are very high and they want their chil­dren to su­per­sede them,” she added.

“So there’s this enor­mous pres­sure, there’s an ex­pec­ta­tion and there is a kind of ‘we’ve done all this for you so why wouldn’t you achieve?’”

In cases where teens al­ready recog­nise in them­selves a prob­lem with ad­dic­tion, they were put off ask­ing their par­ents for help, and in many cases took it upon them­selves to find a ther­a­pist, so their par­ents did not feel let down.

“Prob­a­bly in ev­ery school I go to I will hear a teenager say­ing, ‘I couldn’t tell my par­ents’ or ‘I don’t want to tell my par­ents be­cause I don’t want to worry them’,” she added.

“So you have the par­ents work­ing re­ally hard, try­ing to pro­vide all the op­por­tu­ni­ties for the child so that the child can suc­ceed, but the child is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing so much pres­sure that they don’t want to let the par­ent down, to tell them that they’re strug­gling. It’s such a neg­a­tive cir­cuit.”

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies – in­clud­ing sep­a­rate re­search un­der­taken on be­half of Public Health Eng­land and the English Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Study of Age­ing – have la­belled harm­ful drink­ing as a mid­dle-aged, mid­dle-class phe­nom­e­non.

As a re­sult, they are pass­ing on a bad ex­am­ple to their chil­dren, Sali­gari said.

“You have a par­ent com­ing through the door from the school run, or the end of a busy work­ing week. They walk through the door and go straight to open a bot­tle of wine.

“That per­son will not call them­selves an al­co­holic. How­ever, they are def­i­nitely show­ing their chil­dren that if you feel stressed, this is what you do.” In or­der to change these be­hav­iour pat­terns, par­ents should learn to stand “shoul­der to shoul­der” with teenagers, rather than “bend­ing over them”.

“What I would rec­om­mend strongly is to have a truth­ful re­la­tion­ship with your child, so you are able to trust them to ad­just the lit­tler things and you are on hand to ad­just to the big­ger things,” the Char­ter Clinic founder said.

POOR PARENTING: Drinks with the boys is be­com­ing just that as chil­dren as young as 13 overindulge in al­co­hol.

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