The population of the UK spent £6.7 billion on illegal drugs in 2013 according to the Office of National Statistics.
Drugs are a fact of modern life.
Drugs are present everywhere including school, and yes, that includes the school that your child attends.
Bear in mind that according to the NHS, 1 out of every 10 eleven-year-olds and 1 out of every 4 fifteen-year-olds have tried drugs.
These figures do not come from some scaremongering newspaper looking to shock readers to increase sales, or some sanctimonious person moralising about the 'youth of today'. These are figures collected by the National Health Service of England and Wales.
So unless your eleven-year-old child meets with less than 10 children each day at school, they will know someone who has tried drugs. Furthermore, given how freely children talk among themselves, it is very likely that they will know of this child's experience which will usually be described in glowingly positive terms.
Unfortunately, while pupils will find drugs readily available at school, they will not find accurate and balanced information equally on offer.
If the child who has experimented is one of your children's friends or a friend of a friend of theirs, they may be persuaded or tempted to try drugs themselves. Even if it is not one of their friends, the peer pressure or temptation can be very strong based on the information that they receive and their desire to be accepted.
This does not mean you are a bad parent nor does it mean you have a bad relationship with your child.
Sadly, there are many stories of children raised in loving homes by good parents that have taken drugs. If you are in any doubt, a brief search of the news media will reveal many such tragic stories. Do not be complacent.
Drugs are a highly complicated and charged subject. Many children who communicate well with their parents on difficult topics like sex, will hold back when it comes to drugs for fear of judgement and reprimand.
So what can you do, other than despair?
Lock your children up and cut them off from society, or threaten them with a string of severe punishments that will bring their social lives to a sharp end?
It will not work. It will only encourage your children to deceive you if they ever try drugs.
You need to know as much as you can about drugs. Read, read, and read.
Deal with the issue head on. Raise the topic with your children. Do not wait for them to talk to you about drugs. Do not hesitate. Do not be scared.
Start talking as soon as you can about taking drugs, and keep talking until they reach adulthood. You need to make sure that there is no hesitation to talk about the subject.
Any moral judgements and condemnation will not prevent children from taking drugs. What they will do, is dramatically reduce the chances of them talking to you about the subject.
It is very tempting to go on about the 'evils of drug use' and remind your children that all you want is for them to be safe, but resist the temptation because it simply does not work. Do not underestimate the power of peer pressure and curiosity.
Their peers will tell them how good drugs feel. They will talk about the pleasure of being high.
Do not pretend that there is no positive side to drug taking. Do not let them hear it only from their peers. Present a balance argument.
Talk about the pleasure of being high, and the risk of becoming addicted. Talk about feeling calm and relaxed, versus the anxiety of coming down. Talk about being able to forget all your troubles while on drugs, and the loss of time, memory and health that results.
Help your children to make wise, informed decisions. If they decide that the risks are not worth the pleasure, there is a far greater chance they will refuse drugs when the opportunity arises, and the opportunity will arise when you are not around. That much you can be certain about.
Encourage them to ask questions and to challenge what you tell them. Do not be worried about not knowing the answer, but instead use questions you cannot answer as a chance to do research together.
A good place to begin is to learn about the most commonly tried and used illegal drugs in the UK.
Never feel scared to ask professionals. Start by speaking to your GP. They will be able to offer advice without judging, and more importantly, connect you with the appropriate services and specialists to help.
The President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, has used his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech to call for the world to "rethink" the war on drugs.
He said the zero-tolerance policy might be "even more harmful" than all the other wars being fought worldwide.Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.
Drugs workers fear a "bad batch of heroin" could have led to the deaths of at least seven drug users in recent weeks in the Gwent Police force area.
According to NHS figures, 1,087 babies in England were affected by maternal use of drugs in 2014-15, while in Scotland 987 babies were affected.
The Metropolitan Police has said it will examine 58 GHB-related deaths, following the conviction of serial killer Stephen Port.
A leading police chief says recreational drug testing "may be very useful". Commander Bray is in discussion with the government about it.
Britain should follow America's lead and legalise cannabis, and rake in £1 billion a year in tax revenues
Marijuana legalization will unleash misery on Arizona, according to a wave of television ads that started rolling out across the state last month.
Police in Denmark have arrested a man and woman on suspicion of providing cannabis to cancer patients and people with other serious illnesses.
The National Drugs Helpline is a 24-hour, 7-days a week, free and confidential telephone service that offers advice and information for anyone.
It is run by the government agency, known as FRANK, created to provide drug support and advice for the public.
If you need emergency help, are worried about a friend or relative's drug use or want support coping with your own, contact FRANK on-line contact or by phone.
One excellent source of information is the report by the NHS Statistics on Drugs Misuse: England, 2016. Publication date: July 28, 2016. You will discover lots of useful information like how deaths due to drug use are growing in England and Wales -
Deaths related to drug misuse (England and Wales)
On 14 December, the government put into effect new controls against a whole range of synthetic cannabinoids.
This was the 3rd round of controls on recreational cannabis drugs that have taken over many prisons and are wreaking havoc among the homeless. Past controls on synthetic cannabinoids were rapidly surmounted by "underground" chemists who found new cannabis analogues to replace the banned ones.
The new law to crack down on designer drugs has seen no prosecutions or cautions issued in three of the four Welsh police force areas. It became illegal to produce, distribute, sell or supply the drugs, formerly known as "legal highs", in May 2016.
Only South Wales Police said it had cases relating to new psychoactive substances (NPS).
It was the looks of contempt that did it. I didn't normally spend new year with my parents and sisters, but I had nowhere else to go really as I'd pretty much run out of friends. Time with my family seemed preferable to time on my own.
To be clear; this wasn't about them, it was about me. I'd been a heroin addict for 10 years and my life was a mess. I got by on a round of handouts and petty crime. Lying had become second nature; I'd been to rehab 5 years previously.
It was the absence of two phone calls, 16 years apart, that signalled the start and tragic end of Simon Millington's struggle with prescription drug addiction.
As midnight approached, his mother, Margaret Millington, began to panic as she waited for the call to explain his absence, usually made without fail.
"When it got to 4am or 5am, I knew something was wrong," Margaret says.
A leading drugs reform campaigner has hailed 2016 as a ground-breaking year for research into how psychedelic drugs can help treat illnesses.
"It's been a great year for psychedelic research," Amanda Feilding told The Independent. While most medicines must be taken regularly and repeatedly to be effective "psychedelics seem unique in their ability to produce enduring results after just one or two treatments," she explained.
When emergency medical technicians were called to a mass casualty event in Brooklyn last summer, dispatchers used a word more associated with apocalyptic Hollywood movies than medical emergencies: zombies.
Emergency workers reported multiple people at the scene, near a subway station, "all of whom had a degree of altered mental status that was described as 'zombielike,'" according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine.
In 2010, doctors diagnosed Dinah Bazer with ovarian cancer. After treatment and chemotherapy, it went into remission, but she became increasingly terrified that the disease might return. Two years after diagnosis, she felt worse than ever.
She heard about a study at New York University, using psilocybin to treat cancer patients struggling with extreme anxiety and depression.
Natasha Butler had never heard of fentanyl until it pushed her son to the brink of death. "The doctor said fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 50 times more than heroin," she said as the tears came.
"Jerome was on a respirator. The doctor told me all his organs had shut down. His brain was swelling, putting pressure on to the spine. They said if he makes it he'll be a vegetable."
Former inmates are deliberately getting sent back to prison to cash in on lucrative profits on offer for selling drugs previously known as "legal highs", according to a new report.
Prices for the substances can jump 33-fold once they cross into jails - providing prisoners with an incentive to go back behind bars to make money, researchers claimed.
Six months since the government banned so-called legal highs we would like to find out how the legislation, designed to outlaw trade in synthetic chemicals that imitate the effects of traditional illicit drugs, has changed their use.
Possession of the substances outside a prison is not a criminal offence, and a group of doctors and paramedics told the BBC that the ban on their sale, of 25 May, hadn't made much difference to the numbers of people falling ill.
Afghanistan's opium production has risen by an estimated 43% this year.
The annual increase on 2015 levels was due in part to growth of 10% in the area under cultivation, the UN said, from 183,000 to 201,000 hectares.
The UNODC said estimated opium production in 2016 was 4,800 tons, underscoring a worrying reversal in efforts with illegal drugs.
Drug overdoses hit record levels in England and Wales last year, sparking fierce criticism of the government's approach to drugs and addiction services.
Deaths involving poisoning by opiates, cocaine and amphetamines, including MDMA, have all reached peak levels, according to a count of coroners' rulings recorded in 2015. Similar data has been collected by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) since 1993.
They all say "it'll never happen to me". It was not until Emily McMillan collapsed on the floor of a courtroom, after being convicted of fraud and theft, that she hit rock bottom. She was an addict, and needed help.
That was 6 years ago, when she was a PA to senior executives at a top banking firm. Her face was plastered across newspapers when it was discovered she had stolen from the bank. McMillan has been clean since then.
Walking beside me through a market town centre is a lean, healthy, 46-year-old man. "So, you wanted me to show you how I used to look?" He draws in his stomach, rounds his shoulders, paws imaginary sweat from his cheeks, and suddenly I'm looking at a junkie - jumpy, wheedling, begging for a fix. "And this is how you walk when you're going to score heroin." Subtly hunched over a sunken midriff, he strides ahead, as fast as he can without breaking into a run. "It's all in the stomach," he grins when I've caught up.
Before she found heroin, Allison could not get out of bed most mornings. She contemplated suicide. She saw herself as "a shitty lazy person who felt like crap all the time". She was deeply depressed, and no wonder. She'd been molested by 3 family members by the age of 15. One of the 3 was her father.
Psychiatrists would need little justification to prescribe any drug that might help alleviate Allison's suffering. But heroin?
The UK's two leading public health bodies are making an unprecedented call for the personal possession and use of drugs to be decriminalised.
The war on drugs has done more harm than good, say the Royal Society. They argue that drug misuse should be a health issue, not a matter for courts and prisons. More people than ever before are being harmed by drugs and then harmed again by the punishment.
Newspaper breaks new ground by declaring itself in favour of treating drug use and possession as a health issue rather than a crime.
The Times has boldly gone where few newspapers - and very, very few politicians - have ever dared to go before by declaring itself in favour of legalising drugs in Britain. The paper has supported a call by the Royal Society for Public Health to decriminalise the possession and use of illegal drugs.
This is a flawed question that illustrates a major paradox in the UK and international laws on drugs. Some drugs such as alcohol, are legal, whereas others such as cannabis, are not. This has not always been the case.
In the 19th century extracts of now-illegal drugs were sold in pharmacies and corner shops. Queen Victoria's physician was a great proponent of tincture of cannabis and is reputed to have used it for menstrual pains and childbirth.