Substance misuse

​About substance misuse

In this part of the health and wellbeing curriculum area, your child will develop their understanding of the use and misuse of a variety of substances including: over the counter and prescribed medicines, alcohol, drugs, tobacco and solvents.

They will explore and develop their understanding of the effect of risk-taking behaviour on their life. 

Early level

Note: children in their early years and Primary 1, as well as some older children, will be working at the Early level of Curriculum for Excellence. Find out more about curriculum levels.

  • Show your child that medicines are kept out of their reach so that only adults are allowed to decide when and how to use them.
  • Show your child that some bottles and containers have a 'child lock' and explain that this means that what's inside could be unsafe to touch, eat or drink.
  • Go for a walk outdoors with your child and notice different plants on the way. Point out any plants that you know are safe/unsafe to eat or touch.
  • Make your child aware of the emergency services and how to phone the police, ambulance or fire brigade for help.
  • Play games that show your child some of the different ways that the emergency services can help.
  • Encourage your child to tell you if someone makes them feel sad, frightened or uncomfortable. 

First level (approximately P2 to P4)

  • Show your child that medicine needs to be carefully measured out to give the correct amount.
  • Encourage your child to feel safe and calm when visiting the doctor or dentist.
  • Visit the chemist/pharmacy to collect prescriptions and medicines together when appropriate.
  • Go for a walk outdoors with your child and notice different plants on the way. Point out any plants that you know can be used for medicine or healing, for example docking leaves.
  • Look out for police cars, ambulances and fire engines when you are out with your child and talk about different ways that these services can help.
  • Talk to your child about what to do if someone encourages them to act in an unsafe way.
  • Listen when your child is trying to tell you about something or someone that is worrying him/her.

Second level (approximately P5 to P7)

  • Listen to your child's questions about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Be honest and find the answers together.
  • Use issues from the news, magazines, TV programmes or films to talk with your child about drugs.
  • Ensure that you only ever take prescribed medications that are for you and encourage your child to do the same.
  • Be honest with your child about how it would make you feel if he/she were to be put at risk by taking drugs.
  • Encourage your child to take part in different hobbies and to have a range of different interests.
  • If you drink alcohol, model the importance of drinking in moderation. 

Third/Fourth levels (S1-S3)

  • Encourage your child to ask questions and to talk about what they know about alcohol and drugs and would like to find out.
  • Listen with an open mind when your child talks about alcohol and drugs, and be honest about how you feel about them.
  • Talk to your child about stories, comments, pictures or other information on drugs that they see on social media and how these make them feel.
  • Show your child websites where they can find out more information about drugs issues.
  • Talk to your child about what they could do if their friend, someone else they know or a stranger offers them drugs.
  • Help your child to find safe and healthy ways to deal with stress, and be there to listen during stressful times.
  • Encourage your child to take part in different hobbies and interests that you enjoy and be willing to try some of your child's hobbies and interests.
  • When you are out with your child, be aware of situations around you and use these as a chance to talk about what has happened and what the choices and consequences surrounding the situations are.
  • Look together at the range of opportunities, jobs and careers available and find out what your child is keen to do. Talk openly about how their choices might affect future opportunities.

Senior phase/post-16

  • Think carefully about the best time and place to talk to your child about smoking, drugs or alcohol. Choose a time when neither of you is feeling rushed or pressured.
  • Talk about issues relating to alcohol and drugs as they arise and become relevant to your child.
  • Keep in mind that you and your child might not always agree about issues surrounding alcohol and drugs but talking through the issues can help them make their own decisions.
  • Make use of newspaper headlines, TV news stories and social media trends as conversation starters for sharing your views, finding out what your child thinks and encouraging a deeper conversation on the issues surrounding alcohol and drugs.