After a decade of declining use of alcohol and other substances by adolescents, it appears we are once again facing increasing use by our youth. New “drugs” pop up constantly that appeal to youth who are normally in the experimental risk taking years.
Even while we keep our homes safe for our children, they go places where they interact with others who may bombard our children with “do drugs messages.”
Look at the list below. These are characteristics of “normal” adolescence, and unfortunately, also signs and symptoms of troubled youth who may be or involved with other dangerous behaviors, including experimenting or becoming dependent on drugs – it’s a matter of degree. Kids who use alcohol and other drugs become more severe in the following signs.
For example, teens:
• Become more egocentric and self-involved.
What kid do you know who isn’t?
• Are always looking for “fairness” – this usually means that if parents are “fair” they will let their teen do anything they want.
• Are preoccupied with his or her own thoughts. “No one understands me.”
• Are sometimes withdrawn and isolates in their room. This sometimes results in moodiness and intensified feelings. “I want to be left alone.”
• Debate and argue for the sake of arguments and questions adult decisions and authority. It seems parents are endlessly involved in the same argument over and over, “why can’t I do what I want – if you were fair to me – if you trust me – I should be able to stay out later, etc.”
• Change previously held values and/or question values and family rituals. They do not want to go to church anymore or will not participate in family traditions, etc.
Risk Factors and Signs & Symptoms
• Any use of substances before age 15 (including tobacco)
• Any use of cocaine, heroin, IV use, or designer or synthetic drugs (Spice, Flakka, etc.)
• Use at school (this is very significant)
• Loss of interest in non-using peers and develops substance using peer group
• Wearing drug/alcohol symbols or extreme clothing
• Aggressive and/or delinquent behaviors – stealing, lying, etc.
• Running away (especially with girls)
• Frequent use of drug slang is a very definite sign. Words like “robo-tripping” or “skittling” (over the counter drugs).
“Loud” refers to a very potent form of marijuana and “cheese” is about money. The list gets bigger every day.
Parents want to know “what do I need to know so that I can recognize the signs and symptoms; and if I see these signs where do I go for help?” Th ese are not only valid questions that parents have but information can mean a difference in a child’s future. There are ways to keep our kids drug free.
What To Do
• Be the wall between you child and danger. Do not become your child’s friend. Your teen may get mad at you but eventually they will realize it is because you love them that you give them clear messages about tobacco, drug and alcohol use.
• Do not look the other way if you suspect something is not right with your child. Take action.
• Read everything you can. Check out websites like drugfree.org or drugabuse.gov. Learn everything you can.
• Join others concerned about teen drug use. If you have a Substance Abuse Coalition (like Pinellas County’s
LiveFree!) in your area – join it – they will have tons of information for you.
• Talk to your teen’s doctor and call a properly licensed provider like Operation PAR to do an assessment of your teen’s behavior. Many places have an access number that a parent can call to get services.
• Do anything you can to get between your child and drugs.
Written by Nancy Hamilton, CEO of Operation Par. “Throughout Operation PAR’s 46 years, we have served tens of thousands of youth and families. PAR’s (Parental Awareness and Responsibility) prevention effort is our very foundation–and we never forget that if we can prevent a child from even starting down a path of substance abuse, we will have achieved our mission. Remember that one of the best barriers for reducing teen drug abuse is an informed parent.”