Informed Parents and Teen Do Better

Informed Parents and Teen Do Better

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

Substance abuse professionals often witness parents going through shock and disbelief to learn that their child has been abusing drugs for years or is at an advanced stage of addiction.

Substance abuse researchers, too, often witness some disconnect between parents and teens. Parents don't believe that their child would use drugs, while the child might have used drugs for years.

Parents are better off to be open to the possibility that any child (including their own) can become a victim of drug culture. Parents are advised to often talk to their children about drugs. To talk intelligently about drugs, parents have to be well informed.

According to a joint communiqué by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health and the Food and Drug Administrations, almost 3 million youths aged 12 to 17 used prescription medication, "non-medically" in the year 2001. It just means that these kids abused medication for recreational purposes.

The 2001 National Household Survey on Drug Abuse showed that fifteen percent of 18 and 19 year olds used prescription medication for recreational purposes in the past year.

Abuse of prescription medication often involves stimulants, antidepressants or pain relievers. The use of "medication as prescribed" may be safe and beneficial, but the abuse of prescription medication can become life threatening. Mixing these medications with alcohol or other illicit drugs can be highly dangerous.

Prescribed medication is often taken (or removed) from the medicine cabinets of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles or bought on the underground market.

Household inhalants may be the first substance a child uses before marijuana, tobacco or alcohol. Inhalant abuse reaches its peak during the seventh to ninth grade. According to the Monitoring the Future Report of 2001, approximately one out of ten eighth graders used inhalants in the past year.

Hundreds of household products can be used as inhalants. Most homes have glues, rubber cement, paint thinner, nail polish remover, bleach, kerosene, gasoline, felt tip markers, spot removers or propane. Many junior high school students know more about the abuse potential of these inhalants than do their parents.

Let your child know that inhalants disrupt heart rhythm and can lead to cardiac arrest. They can cause damage to the heart, kidney, brain and liver. Not having been harmed by previous abuse of inhalants is no guarantee that they will not endanger one's life the next time. An inhalant abuser can die the tenth time or hundredth time without ever having been aware of any adverse effect from past use. Let the kids know that.

Ecstasy, the so called, Love Drug, is a party drug. Parents are often unaware of their teens' use of Ecstasy. While parents believe that their teens would not do anything so foolish as to endanger their lives, they might be endangering their own and someone else's life.

Be alert to such signs as chemical odors on your child's breath or clothes, paint or other stains on the body or clothes, disoriented or disheveled appearance, slurred speech, hidden cans of spray paints or solvent containers.

Cocaine or amphetamines may be more addictive to teens than to the adults. This should not serve as an excuse for adults, but teens should know that their brain chemistry might be more prone to addiction.

Adolescent substance abuse is a serious problem because it can disrupt education, jeopardize chances of a promising career and, in some cases, thrust the child into the juvenile court system.

In some instances, an emotional disorder such as depression may instigate substance abuse. If your child has emotional difficulties, be aware that a mental disorder and substance abuse often go hand in hand.

Don't assume that your child knows better than to not go around illicit drugs or people who abuse them. Tell them clearly that you don't want them to use drugs. Don't just mention it in the passing. Don't just tell them and leave the room. Sit down with them and discuss it.

Talk to your children every few months or sooner if something about their behavior makes you suspicious. If they admit to using drugs or challenge your statements, don't react in a way that would cut off further discussion. Encourage them to look into the literature for themselves.

Teens prefer to seek health information through Internet. Researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation observed that 70% of fifteen to seventeen year olds used Internet to pick up health related information.

Information provided to kids about the risks of drugs is the main reason for decline in the adolescent drug abuse. It does make a difference when kids are provided the right information and an opportunity to discuss what's on their mind.

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Copyright 2003, Mind Publications 
Posted March 2003


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