For many parents, the idea of teen drug abuse seems about as foreign and far off as Jupiter. That is, until the issue is sitting across the table from you thumbing through text messages while wearing an iPod and sporting a surly attitude. Then, it gets real-very real. But don’t hit the panic button just that. Adolescent drug abuse and addiction can seem terrifying to deal with, but there is help and hope for your teen.
Signs your teenager may be using
The problem with identifying drug abuse among teenagers is that the common symptoms of drug abuse that most people are aware of are the norm for teen behavior. Another problem is that this is something no parent really wants to see in their teen. Aside from the general moodiness and secretive nature of most teens, there are other symptoms you should keep a watchful eye out for in order to identify signs that your teen may, in fact, be abusing drugs.
Here are a few of the more common symptoms that are fairly easy to recognize no matter how hard teens try to hide them:
- Runny nose
- Sudden weight loss
- Loss of interest in favorite activities and/or pastimes
- Chronic coughing
- Inappropriate clothing (this is most common among teens attempting to hide needle marks with long sleeves)
- Sudden drop in grades
- Uncommon behavior problems at home and school
- Skipping school
- Skipping class
- Change in friends
- Excessive hunger
- Loss of appetite
None of these are a sure sign that your teen is abusing drugs. However, if you can see many of these changes in your teen, it could be a sign of trouble.
How should parents respond?
Don’t panic. Now is not the time for that. It’s the time for taking action. The most important thing to remember once you discover that your teen is abusing drugs is that there is help available. There are support groups in many major cities to help parents cope with their teens, and they also educate parents on adolescent drug abuse and what you can do to help. Get help. That’s the first thing you should do. You know that teenage drug abuse isn’t something that’s just going to stop on its own. Consider turning to a substance abuse rehabilitation facility that offers specialized treatment programs for youth drug abuse. The more experience they have dealing with teens, the better it will be for your teen. Don’t play the blame game. It’s easy to point fingers and assign blame. It’s even easier to accept the weight of the entire problem on your shoulders. Guilt can rip you and your family apart just as fast as drugs. Don’t let that happen. Talk to your teen and really listen to what your teen has to say about life, drugs and anything at all your teen wants to discuss. You need to do this even if what your teen is telling you is painful to hear. Not only does this let your teen know that you’ll be there no matter what, but it also helps your teen feel a little less alone in the fight to overcome addiction. Join support groups like Al-Anon, Alateen, and Narcotics Anonymous. These groups exist to help individuals, teens and families struggling with addiction. Most communities have them and everyone in your family can benefit from attending.
Illicit drug use and today’s teens
Beginning in the 1990s, illicit drug use among American teens saw a sharp decline. In 2009 and 2010, however, that decline hit a huge bump in the road. In fact, according to DrugFacts: Nationwide Trends April 2011 edition, marijuana use among eighth, tenth and twelfth graders increased between 2009 and 2010. Ecstasy use also increased at the same time for eighth and tenth graders. The bottom line is that teen drug abuse and use, despite the mountain of education available on the dangers of addiction and drug use seems to be on the rise once again.
Prescription drug abuse among teens
Many teens begin taking prescription drugs because they feel it’s a safer choice than using illicit drugs. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health findings in 2009 and 2010, of the people over the age of 12 who admitted to using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in recent months, 50 percent reported receiving prescription drugs from friends or family members free of charge. Many teens cite easy access to prescription medication as one of the reasons they prefer them over illicit drugs today. But one of the biggest considerations among teens may be the fact that the social stigma associated with prescription drug abuse is much lower than with illicit drugs.
Is treatment necessary?
The truth is that it’s extremely difficult to kick the drug habit without going through a proper youth addiction treatment program. Addiction is a complicated issue that often goes much deeper than simple curiosity. That’s why most drug treatment programs that deal with teen drug abuse also include individual therapy, group therapy and medical care and treatment as part of the program.