As a parent, you already have a great deal to worry about with your children. When they’re very young, the great fear is that they might be kidnapped or harmed by a stranger. As they age, the fears become more insidious. Rather than being fearful of a stranger watching the school playground, you start to wonder about their friends and the peer pressure your child may be under to try drugs and alcohol. Simply talking to your kids isn’t enough. You should also be armed with the facts, know how to look for warning signs and have a game plan for the next step if you suspect abuse.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that illicit drug use remains high among teenagers. It is currently estimated that more than 22 percent of high school seniors have used marijuana at some point in the last month. The agency also reports that 15 percent of seniors have used a prescription medication for non-medicinal purposes in the last year. The good news in this survey is that the use of heavier drugs, including inhalants and cocaine, is continuing a downward trend. Fewer teens are smoking cigarettes, and alcohol use among teens is also in a decline. However, the danger of more people using marijuana and abusing prescription drugs should not be underestimated.
The Long-Term Effects of Adolescent Drug Abuse
Teens often believe that they’re just blowing off steam on the weekends, but the effects of the drugs can last much longer. One of the problems with drug use is that it makes it harder for teens to focus and pay attention. They may also develop a pattern of turning to drugs or alcohol when they’re struggling, and this sets them up for a lifetime of problems. They’re more likely to have unprotected sex, and the steady use increases their risk of either committing or being victimized by sex crimes. Physical side effects of drug abuse range from heart attacks and strokes to permanent brain damage, and even death.
Prevention is Better than Cure
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is certainly true when it comes to teenagers and drugs. Parents are urged to speak openly with their children about the dangers of drugs and the possible side effects. They should be very clear in their expectations that kids remain drug free. Knowing where your kids are going and who they’re spending time with can lessen the risk. Parents are also advised to limit the amount of alcohol, cleaning solutions and prescription drugs in the home so that they’ll be easier to monitor. One of the best deterrents is parental supervision. You don’t have to be in the same room as your kids at all times, but it helps to make your house the hang-out spot by providing the kids with plenty of entertainment and snacks. This allows you to easily walk through or past the room at various times and make sure they aren’t getting into trouble.
Learn the Signs
Learn the warning signs of drug use so you know what to watch for. Many of the warning signs can be chalked up to growth spurts or teenage angst, so you should be extra vigilant and observant. If you start seeing any of these little signals, take a closer look for other signs:
• Tobacco use leaves an odor on clothes and hair. It also results in discolored lips, teeth and fingertips.
• Excessive hunger combined with sleepiness, excessive happiness and lack of motivation could be normal teenage behavior or an indicator of marijuana use. Pay close attention for paranoia and bloodshot eyes.
• Abnormally fast or slow heart rates should always be treated seriously. When combined with sleepiness, lowered inhibitions, dizziness or poor coordination, it could indicate the abuse of prescription medications.
• If your child has always fallen asleep with little difficulty and is now having trouble sleeping, it could indicate the use of hallucinogens or stimulants. With these drugs, there may also be paranoia and blurred perceptions.
Teens are known for being moody and going through several changes during these turbulent times, but you know your child better than anyone. If you feel that something is wrong, you should follow that gut instinct and seek assistance.
There are ways to help your child, and the first is to be honest with yourself. Nobody wants to admit that their child is an addict, but it’s important to see the facts for what they are and take the next step. Psych Central urges parents to love their child and reassure him or her that you’re taking steps to help because you love him so greatly. Focus on finding her strengths and compliment him or her on those positive moments. Talk to your child, and listen to what she has to say. At the same time, try to get an appointment with a psychologist or therapy group trained in drug abuse for more specialized assistance. You may want to get her involved in different groups that have a more positive focus, and the school may even have programs to help you. The important thing is that you don’t give up on your child. While it’s better to prevent the abuse in the first place, there are still steps you can take after the drugs take hold.