Is Your Teen Abusing Drugs?
While experimenting with drugs doesn’t automatically lead to drug abuse, early use is a risk factor for developing more serious drug abuse and addiction. Risk of drug abuse also increases greatly during times of transition, such as changing schools, moving, or divorce. The challenge for parents is to distinguish between the normal, often volatile, ups and downs of the teen years and the red flags of substance abuse. These include:
- Having bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils; using eye drops to try to mask these signs.
- Skipping class; declining grades; suddenly getting into trouble at school.
- Missing money, valuables, or prescriptions.
- Acting uncharacteristically isolated, withdrawn, angry, or depressed.
- Dropping one group of friends for another; being secretive about the new peer group.
- Loss of interest in old hobbies; lying about new interests and activities.
- Demanding more privacy; locking doors; avoiding eye contact; sneaking around.
What Can You Do To Help Prevent Teen Drug Abuse?
Clear communication by parents about the negative physical, emotional, and functional effects of drugs, as well as about their expectations regarding drug use have been found to significantly decrease substance abuse in teens. Adequate parental supervision has also been found to be a deterrent to drug use in youth. Specifically, parents knowing how, where, and with whom adolescents socialize, as well as limiting their children’s access to substances that can be abused have been associated with less teenage drug use. Limiting the amount of alcohol, cleaning solutions (inhalants), prescription, and over-the-counter medications that are kept in the home to amounts that can be closely monitored and accounted for has also been found to decrease teen drug abuse.
What Are The Dangers Surrounding Drug Abuse In Teens?
As defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, drug dependence is a negative pattern of using a substance that leads to a number of problems, which may include needing more of a drug to get intoxicated (tolerance), difficulties that occur when the effects of the drug wear off (withdrawal), using more of a substance or for longer time than intended, and other life problems because of their use of a drug or drugs. Other effects are:
- Drugs of any kind decreases teens’ ability to pay attention.
- The younger a person is when they begin using drugs the more likely they are to develop a substance-abuse problem and the more likely they are to relapse into drug abuse when trying to quit.
- Juveniles who use drugs are more likely to have unprotected sex, sex with a stranger, as well as to engage in sexual activity at all. This, in turn, puts them at risk for pregnancy, rape commission or victimization, and for sexually transmitted diseases.
- Substance use can cause or mask other emotional problems, like anxiety, depression, mood swings, or hallucinations (for example, hearing or seeing things). Either of those illnesses can result in death by suicide or homicide.
- Anabolic steroids have been associated with impotence in boys and men, clitoral enlargement in girls and women, as well as baldness, stunted growth, heart attacks, strokes, liver disease, cancer, acne and infections, including HIV/AIDS in both sexes.
- Depending on how the body takes in and processes each kind of drug, substances of abuse can affect virtually every one of the body’s systems. Examples of this include permanent brain damage associated with inhalants, heart attack or stroke from stimulants, halted breathing from sedatives. Any of these problems can result in death.