Did you know that over 50% of high school students have reported trying drugs? According to a government study called ‘Monitoring the Future’, as many as 30% of teens have experimented with illicit drugs.
Drug abuse and addiction that starts in the teenage years can lead to lifelong abuse and addiction if the problem isn’t addressed early on.
Parents need to know what to look for and how to get help.
What You Need to Know About Teenage Drug Abuse:
There are a number of factors that can lead to a teenager trying and abusing drugs and alcohol. Some of these include:
- Family History. If a parent or other close family member has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, it can mean that the teen is at a higher risk.
- Relationships. If a teenager is close to family or friends who abuse drugs or alcohol, they are more susceptible to experimenting themselves.
- Mental Health. When a child is diagnosed with a mental health or behavioral health condition early on (such as depression, anxiety or ADHD), often times they are medicated which can lead to prescription drug abuse or even “self-medication” with street drugs and/or alcohol.
- Personal Development. Low self-esteem, poor social skills and other insecurities can also lead a teen to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
- Availability. Relationships with peers who abuse drugs or alcohol gives access to drugs and alcohol –teens are more likely to experiment with substances that are easy to get.
Negative Consequences of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse:
Early abuse can lead to some serious consequences, here are a few:
- Impaired Driving Capabilities. Teens that are impaired may make the decision to drive, which can lead to DUI or DWI, accidents or worse – putting others on the road at a serious risk.
- Sexual Activity. Teenagers who abuse drugs or alcohol are much more likely to use poor judgment, particularly when it comes to sexual activities – leading to STD’s or pregnancy.
- Poor Nutrition. Certain drugs suppress the appetite, others increase it – either way, your child isn’t getting the proper nutrition at this extremely crucial time in their developmental phases.
- Brain Damage. Drug and alcohol abuse can kill brain cells and cause concentration issues, create memory loss and impact your teen’s ability and motivation to learn.
- Health Issues. Depending on the type of drug abused, your teen could have everything from liver damage to heart failure. Some drugs taken in high dosages, such as meth, can lead to psychotic behavior, seizures or even death.
- Drug and Alcohol Addiction. Even if the teen doesn’t become dependent on drugs or alcohol, the early abuse dramatically increases their chances of becoming addicted later on.
Talking to Your Teenager About Drug and Alcohol Abuse:
It can be hard to find the right time to talk to your teen about drugs and alcohol. The time is now! Here are a few tips to help plan for talking to your teen:
- Ask questions. Don’t assume, or act like you already have all of the information. If you are unassuming and approach your teen with an open mind you are much more likely to get an open discussion going. Instead of lecturing, ask your teen for their opinions and feelings on drugs, alcohol and the risks associated with them.
- Discuss the risks and negative consequences. Try to avoid scare tactics and instead explain the risks and how they can directly impact your teen. Some may not realize that teen drug abuse comes with such big risks, and that even teenagers can become addicted to drugs.
- Learn about their perspective. How do they view drug and alcohol use? The entertainment-world tends to glamorize drugs and alcohol, confusing your teen’s perspective. Try to understand how their opinions have been impacted by the media and help your teen understand the difference between Hollywood and reality.
- Talk about peer pressure. With such a large amount of drug abuse in the teenage years, it’s highly-likely that if your teen hasn’t been offered drugs or alcohol already, they will be at some point in their teenage years. Discuss ways your teen can push back on peer pressure and what they can do and say if they find themselves in a situation where they have to say no.
- Be honest about your own drug and alcohol use. Teens are old enough to hear the truth. If you do or have ever taken drugs or drank alcohol, be prepared to discuss this with your child. Your personal experiences and honesty will help your child relate to what you are saying and they are more apt to listen to you when you are open about your own struggles.
Parents often think that if they talk to their kids about drugs or alcohol it will put ideas in their heads. This isn’t the case. When a parent is honest about their concerns and keeps an open line of respectful communication, the teen is much more likely to come to them when there is a problem.
If your teen is already abusing drugs or alcohol, it might be time to consider getting them into treatment. Visit our Teen Rehab page to learn more about the treatment and programs offered for teens who abuse drugs or alcohol.