More and more teens are becoming victims of drug addiction. Teenage drug addiction is becoming so common that we almost expect that ever teen uses drugs. Because drug addition is a incurable disease of the brain, teens a much more susceptible to addiction because their brains are still developing and more vulnerable to the changes causes by drugs.
What to look for:
Here are some of the factors about drug addiction parents should look for in their teen:
- Too much free time
- Weak family structures
- Peer pressure
- Social pressure
- Media glorification of drugs
Are younger Teens exposed to drugs?
The worst thing parents of teenagers or younger children can do is assume that their child is not going to be exposed to drugs:
In the community
In your own neighborhood
Drugs are everywhere and predatory dealers are looking for younger and younger customers, drug addiction parents need to be always on the look out for it.
The idea of a young child taking drugs is frightening, but equally as alarming is the knowledge that kids, even little kids, have about drugs. They can tell you about cocaine, or marijuana, or heroin or any of the other drugs sold on the street.
Consider this: half of all children will try drugs before they get out of high school. Half! Can you say with complete certainty that your child will be among the 50% who do not try drugs at least once?
If there is even the slightest chance your child might make a bad decision in a moment of weakness, you need to know what to do.
My wife grew up in a large urban area. Her family lived in the city and later moved to a suburbs when their financial situation improved. She clearly recalls knowing kids in her elementary schools that took drugs, both in the city and in the suburbs. She was one of the 50% who did not use drugs, but her brother, who was seven years older, used drugs regularly when he was in the suburban high school.
As it relates to drug addiction, parents need to recognize that each child is an individual and that life experience for one may bear no resemblance to the experience of the other. If the older one never uses drugs, don’t assume the younger one will not use drugs either.
According to Dr. Allen I. Leshner, director, National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the first thing parents need to understand is WHY their kids would consider taking drugs. He offers that researchers have identified more than 50 factors, which are found at several different levels—individual, family, peer group and broader community.
Teenage Drug Addiction: Chicken and Egg Issue
Which came first, the chicken or the egg? You can debate the issue all you want, but when the end result is that you’re either dinner or you’re breakfast, what difference does it make? Now hold that thought. If your teenage child starts drinking alcohol, or starts smoking marijuana, does it really matter which they do first? When with either the end result may be addiction, to alcohol or pot or perhaps to some other, more powerful drug? The point is they are in jeopardy either way.
Parents worry about their teens using illegal drugs about teenage drug addiction, but alcohol is just as dangerous, and it is readily available, perfectly legal and socially acceptable. As children enter their teenage years they want to separate from their parents, and part of the teen experience is to stretch out and experiment with substances. But, most parents aren't considering the possibility of teenage drug addiction. Even the most conscientious parents may not be able to protect their teens from the predatory lure of alcohol. It is readily available, maybe in your own home.
Borrowing a sports analogy, the best defense against teen drinking is a good offense. Parents need to equip themselves with solid information about teen alcohol use, a realistic view of their child and access to professional help if there is any early warning signs of alcohol abuse or teenage drug addiction.
Parents need to begin their offensive preparations long before the teenage years. See the problem of drinking before it comes into their home. Understand the possibility of teenage drug addiction before they start using. Be proactive and establish their own game plan for educating their child on the topic, handling the problem if it arises and limiting the damage. Parents don’t want to believe that “Little Joey” or “Little Annie” is going to drink, or worse yet is having a problem with alcohol addiction. That’s something that happens to somebody else. This is not true.
Alcohol is everywhere, so parents need to be savvy and look for the warning signs. Don’t assume that the problem is going to pass you by because you’re the “right kind of parents.” Human nature hasn’t changed over centuries and if parents are honest, they will recall their own view of the world when they were teens.
Warning Signs of Teenage Drug Addiction:
School: Is your child keeping up with his/her school work? Have they lost interest in going to school and look for excuses to stay home? Call the school and keep track of your child’s attendance in class. I coach football and basketball for middle school and high school. I get attendance records and if a teen has missed class, they don’t play in the games. But do you know your child skipped second period math class? Are there days when you think your child has gone to school, but the attendance records do not match up?
Children who are in trouble with alcohol or teenage drug addiction will often begin failing classes, not turning in homework assignments or in general just fall behind. “I can’t believe Joey is failing math, it was always his favorite subject.” A new pattern has emerged and it isn’t pretty. Schools have open campuses, allowing kids to come and go. They can easily slip into the community and get into trouble.
Health: As a person slips into alcoholism or teenage drug addiction, a variety of physical signs point to drug to the problem. Are they listless all of the time? Kids don’t want to get up in the morning anyway, but they don’t always refuse to get moving. Weight loss and weight gain are signs. Are there changes in eating habits? The eyes are an indicator. Has the life gone out of their eyes, or is there a major change?
Appearance: This can be a difficult area to discern, as fashions change and often times what adults feel is acceptable dress may not have anything to do with current trends. Watch for changes in dress. Does a child lose interest in how they look? Kids want to fit in and there is peer pressure influence on the way they dress. Girls, especially, are bombarded with images on appearance. Has there been an attitude shift? Have grooming habits changed?
Attitude and Behavior: As children enter their teen years it is natural for them to want to break away from the family. When kids go to extremes to make sure you don’t know who they’re with or what they are doing, the red flag should go up. When they become secretive and guarded, when their privacy at home prevents your open access to them, look for something beyond mere adolescent rebellion. These become the warning signs of teenage drug addiction
Money can be a sign. If their only interaction with the parents is to ask for money, and when asked why they need money they refuse to answer, or become indignant, that is an indicator of possible drug abuse. Worse yet, they may steal items from home to buy beer or liquor.
Communicating with teens can be a challenge, especially because they are beginning to spread their wings and desire independence from mom and dad. Stay calm. The most common mistake parents can make is trying to force ideas and values on the defiant teenaged mind. I was that way.
There's a leadership responsibility that always needs to be in evidence, and parents need to be parents. Trying to be “best buddies” is not a good strategy. However, parents need to meet their children where they’re at. That means trying to understand the situation from your child’s perspective.
Teenagers will probably come up with some very wrong reasoning; seriously flawed ideas and their whole world-view will likely be counter to that of their parents. But they have a NEED to be heard and respected. It’s one thing to accept an opinion counter to your own, and it’s quite another to approve of it.
Try working with your teen’s ideas and concepts, and have an open and non-threatening discussion about them. You can establish rules of engagement with your teen and agree that both of you are allowed to express ideas and opinions without fear of retribution.
The key is to remember that the parent needs to be the one in control. As a chaplain, I do a lot of counseling work and my approach is entirely patient-centered. They establish the themes of the conversation, but even though I am not deciding the topic, or necessarily directing the conversation, I am still in control.
Remember that your teenager, like a patient in a hospital, is probably going to be very myopic. He/she will see things only from their perspective. Take a step back and see the entire situation. Go with their feelings, their concerns and walk down their path. Share the experience.
Parents are the front line of the fight against teen drug addiction. Don’t push that responsibility off to the schools. Rather, partner with the school counselors, teachers and administrators, never forgetting that you are the one responsible for your teen. If alcohol abuse or addiction enters your home, seek professional help and form another partnership in the effort. Be honest. Be in control. Be alert. Be proactive.