What Parents Need to Know About Teen Substance Abuse
Many parents believe the same thing.
“My child would not (or does not) use drugs or alcohol.” Others may not talk much about it at all, assuming it is a part of growing up and testing out life. Yet, drug abuse is not uncommon in teens.
Many teens develop life-threatening complications from drug use. In some cases, that first drug use experience can lead to an overdose. For still other teens, drug abuse moves from recreational fun into a true form of addiction requiring medical intervention. Could your teen be abusing drugs or alcohol?
Get to Know the Statistics
The best way to understand the risks is to recognize what is happening across the country. The National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens provides some pretty significant statistics. Its 2014 Monitoring the Future survey found:
- An astonishing 64 percent of high school seniors didn’t see routine use of marijuana as harmful.
- Only 14.2 percent of 12th grade students viewed the use of e-cigs as harmful.
For older students, binge drinking on college campuses continues to be one of the biggest risk factors in leaving school.
Do You Know the Warning Signs?
As a parent, it is easy to overlook the warning signs of teen drug and alcohol use. Yet, early intervention is key to preventing addiction and overdoses. Take a look at these warning signs and, if you notice them happening with your teen, take action.
Your Teen’s Grades Fall
A slip in grades could be blamed on the teacher or perhaps on a class that’s too hard. In some cases, however, one of the first signs of drug use in a teen comes from a good student starting to struggle with his or her classes. Poor academic performance alone isn’t enough to warrant drug treatment, but it could indicate something is changing in your teen’s life.
Your Teen Has New Friends or Social Groups
Peer pressure is a strong influence of drug use in high school. If you notice your teen’s friends have changed, and perhaps you don’t know them so well, this could be a warning sign. It specifically is a concern if the new group seems to have created changes in your teen’s personality, such as being withdrawn or no longer interested in the same activities.
Your Teen Displays Secretive Behavior
When you begin to notice your teen acting in a secretive manner, it may be time to take a closer look. Some teens may lie or hide information. They may not make eye contact with you any longer. They may no longer be open about what they are doing, what their friends are talking about, or what happened at school.
Your Teen Is Missing School and Activities
Teens with attentive parents know they cannot use drugs at home. Many schools have cracked down on drug testing and patrols to ensure teens are not using. This makes extracurricular activities the prime time to skip out to get away with friends. Some teens may even miss school to do so. Others may feel so sick and tired that they miss school frequently.
Your Teen Engages in Reckless Behavior
Engaging in reckless behavior such as aggressive driving or physical fights could indicate a traditional rebellious flare, but it also could mean the teen is struggling under the use of a substance.
You’ve Noticed Psychological and Health Problems
Other changes in a teen who is abusing drugs or alcohol include:
- Deceitful behavior
- Extreme levels of being very happy and being very sad
- Inability to concentrate
- Laughing randomly
- Changes in personality
- Inability to eat well, with weight loss or weight gain
- Headaches, difficulty concentrating
- Shakes or tremors
- Inability to sleep or sleeping a lot
Your child’s hygiene habits may drop off and his or her clothing preferences may change as they try to hide track marks. Some may have burns on their fingers or they may be constantly scratching their skin.
Are You Worried About Your Teen?
There simply is no way to know for sure if your child is using drugs or alcohol unless he or she receives a formal diagnosis or admits to it. Yet, any combination of these warning signs could signal a need to seek out help for your child. Early intervention can minimize long-term risk to your child.
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