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Ways to Keep Your Teen Away from Drugs

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

Ways to Keep Your Teens Away from Drugs-1

When you first held your child in your arms, it probably felt like you could do anything to protect them from harm. As you watched them grow and become more independent, you imagined them as adults with their own lives. Now they are a teenager and you feel them slipping away from your protection. You may feel helpless.

The teen years are hard. They are tough for the person experiencing them and they can be even more difficult to watch. You want to get through to your child about real-world dangers, but sometimes it just feels impossible. Your teen is discovering things in the world you wish you could keep them from seeing.

Teenagers want to fit in. They want to feel loved and understood — and with all the physical and mental changes they are going through, they might feel alone. They may experiment with drugs to escape negative emotions, to fit in with peers, or to simply have fun. Unfortunately, drug use can turn into an addiction. As you watch your child in the midst of drug abuse, you’ll feel frustrated, heartbroken and helpless. The baby you once held in your arms is forever gone.

If your teen is using or abusing drugs, don’t lose hope. Your child needs you more now than ever. We’re here to help you reconnect with your child and support positive changes. The first step to keeping your teen away from drugs is to try to gain a solid understanding of your teen and why they may have turned to substances in the first place.

Why Teens Abuse Drugs

Teen Drug Statistics

You and your teen are not alone. According to a 2011 national survey:

  • One out every 15 high school seniors smokes marijuana on a daily or regular basis.
  • Seven out of every 10 students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school and one-third have done so by eighth grade.
  • Every day, more than 4,000 teens try an illegal drug for the first time.

Even though teens commonly experiment with drugs, it doesn’t mean drug use is acceptable. Drug use often leads to addiction, damages the body and mind and can lead to an overdose, alcohol poisoning or risky behavior.

Teen Stress and Drugs

If your teen abuses drugs, realize that you haven’t lost them completely and they aren’t a bad person. A lot of different factors contribute to teen drug abuse, including:

  • Stress: High-stress teens are twice as likely to get drunk, smoke tobacco or use drugs than teens who experience low stress levels.
  • Boredom: Teens might be looking for new ways to have fun. They no longer have interest in games and toys they played with as children, but are too young to be occupied with adult responsibilities. It’s important to encourage positive activities, because bored teens are fifty percent more likely to drink or use drugs.
  • Money: Teens who have a fair amount of weekly income, whether from an allowance or another source, and who are free to spend it on what they wish, are twice as likely to drink or use drugs.

Teen Money and Drug Use

  • A Family history of substance abuse: While there is no specific gene for substance abuse, certain biological and genetic factors makes one more vulnerable to addiction. If family members have regularly used drugs around a teen, the chances are greater that the teen will perceive drug use as a normal way to cope with problems or have fun.
  • Mental or behavioral disorders: Teens who suffer from depression, anxiety or another disorder are more likely to self-medicate and use drugs as a way to escape emotional pain.
  • History of trauma: Teens who have experienced traumatic events in their lives — such as a serious accident, death in the family or childhood abuse — are at greater risk of abusing drugs. Substances may help them cope with painful memories and relieve stress associated with trauma. They may need counseling to help them process difficult emotions in a healthy way.
  • Low self-esteem: It is common for teens to compare themselves to others and be unsure about their identity. They may feel misunderstood and take criticism to heart. Teens want to be accepted for who they are, and drugs or alcohol may help them feel confident and less affected by rejection.
  • Living in a community that accepts drug use: If a teen lives somewhere that has a higher tolerance for alcohol and substance abuse among youth, they are less likely to challenge that perspective and are more likely to accept it as a normal way of life. If their school does not consistently enforce rules related to substance use, they are more likely to break the rules.

However, teens are in turn less likely to abuse drugs if they:

  • Have a strong bond with their parent or caregiver.
  • Participate in extracurricular activities or volunteer in a community organization.
  • Have high self-esteem.
  • Have positive role models.

Teens need stability and support during the difficult transition from child to young adult. Step back and evaluate their living situation and the people they spend the most time with. Take steps to make positive changes where you can.

How Drugs Affect Teens

Drugs have a negative impact on mental, physical and social health. Substance abuse is especially dangerous for teens because their brain is still developing and they are more likely to depend on drugs or alcohol later in the life if they learn bad habits while they are young.

Fortunately, your teen can adopt a healthy lifestyle and seek counseling to help them reverse or heal the damage they may have caused themselves with substance use. Try to help them prevent damage by educating them on the effects of drug use. Drugs and alcohol affect the user:

  1. Physically

Drug Damage in Teens

Drug abuse can damage organs and lead to disease. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and inhalants are the most commonly used drugs among adolescents. Prescription and over-the-counter medications are commonly abused by high school seniors. Each substance poses its own set of health risks, especially when used long-term, such as:

  • Alcohol: Damages the brain and most organs. The cerebral cortex, the hippocampus and the cerebellum are most vulnerable to damage. This results in impaired problem-solving skills, memory, decision-making and coordination.
  • Marijuana: Impairs short-term memory, learning, ability to focus and coordination. Can harm the lungs and increase heart rate.
  • Inhalants: Usually appears in household substances in aerosol cans and are highly toxic. They can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain. They can cause a healthy individual to have heart failure within minutes after continuous use.
  • Nicotine: Increases risk of cancer, heart disease and emphysema. Tobacco is extremely addictive and has killed about 100 million people during the twentieth century.
  • Prescription medication: Can lead to addiction and greatly increase the risk of overdose, which can be fatal.

Substance abuse not only directly damages the body, but it also raises the risk of being harmed by outside factors. For example, a teen may drive under the influence or ride with someone who is driving drunk or high and then get in a car accident.

Teens are also more likely to engage in unprotected sex when they under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can lead to the transmission of HIV or other sexually-transmitted diseases. Sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia can also spread illness or disease.

Finally, drug use increases the risk of suicide and homicide. Make sure your teen is fully aware of all the damaging effects substance abuse has on the body.

  1. Mentally

Young brains are especially susceptible to the effects of substance abuse. For example, a teen who heavily drinks and then stops drinking might have difficulty with normal thinking abilities even weeks or months later. They are more likely to become dependent on alcohol later in life, too. Any mind-altering substance poses a great risk for addiction, and the younger they start, the higher the risk.

Substance Abuse in Adolescents

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) found that people who began using addictive substances before age 15 are almost seven times more likely to develop a substance abuse problem than those who start at age 21 or older.

Drugs have an immediate effect on mental health, too, such as potentially causing:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Behavioral problems
  • Impaired memory
  • Impaired learning skills
  • Decreased motivation
  • An impact on emotional development
  • Suicidal thoughts

Teen Drug Use and Suicide

Substance abuse is especially dangerous for teens who already suffer from a mental disorder such as depression because the substances exacerbate depression symptoms. Studies have found that over 70 percent of adolescent suicides may be complicated by drug and alcohol dependence and at least 25 percent of alcoholics and drug addicts commit suicide.

Also, drug abuse may trigger certain mental disorders such as depression, anxiety or schizophrenia in teens who never experienced these conditions before but are susceptible to them.

If you notice your teen feeling unusually down, or if their grades are sliding and they normally excel in school, they may be struggling with a substance abuse problem.

  1. Socially

Teens need to realize that drug abuse isn’t all about causing harm to their minds and bodies — it can destroy their relationships and their self-image, too.

Teens who use drugs are often looked down upon by others, which certainly doesn’t help a young person’s self-esteem. A teen who uses drugs might isolate themselves and avoid participating in healthy activities outside of school. They ultimately will feel like they don’t belong and they aren’t living up to their potential, which can ruin their confidence, motivation and make them feel guilty or depressed.

Substance abuse can cause tension within a family, too — especially between siblings or relatives who once bonded with the teen. People who love the teen will feel hurt, and perhaps even betrayed, by their substance abuse. They may lose friends who don’t use drugs and replace them with acquaintances who do.

Teens may also act in ways that are embarrassing while under the influence or they may behave dangerously in social situations.

Drugs will encourage your teen to withdraw from the people they love. They may push encouragement and positive support away to avoid negative feelings and strained relationships.

How to Talk to Your Teen About Drug Abuse

Approaching your teen about drug abuse isn’t easy, but you need to talk to them immediately. The longer you wait, the greater the chance that serious damage will be done.

Let the love you have for your child empower you and give you the courage to discuss the difficult topic of drug abuse. You don’t want time to pass by and then have to look back with regret for not being more proactive in your teen’s life.

Here are some tips to help you talk to your teen without causing them to shut down or tune you out:

  • Don’t lecture your teen. You may feel tempted to hammer the dangers of drug use into their head, but this will only make them feel misunderstood. They will be more hesitant to be honest with you and more likely to rebel against your demands. Instead, show your concerns and let them know that you want to help and understand them. Leave plenty of time to listen to them speak.
  • Encourage open and honest communication. Let your teen know that it is not your goal to judge or punish them. Let them know that you love them and you are genuinely concerned about their health, relationships and future. Encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings with you. Don’t pressure them to open up, since they might not be ready. Let them know that you are available night or day so when they are ready to talk they know they’ll have your attention.
  • Ask them about their viewpoint on drugs. You may gain some important insight into your teen’s world if you find out what they think of drugs. Do they take drugs lightly? Are they influenced by social media or films? Educate them about the harmful effects of drugs to help them see drugs in a new light.
  • Discuss how drugs can negatively impact the things they care about. Instead of generalizing the impact drugs have on teenagers, be specific and speak to your teen on a personal level. How will drugs affect their long-term and short-term goals? Do they dream of going to college someday or winning this year’s art contest? Help them see the bigger picture, as teens may be more focused on instant gratification.
  • Teach them positive ways to handle peer pressure. Discuss the value of self-respect and, again, help them think about their goals and what they want to achieve. Let them know that if a person brings them down or gets in the way of their dreams, then they need to give their time and attention to someone more appreciative of their friendship. Read your teen’s body language. If they don’t seem interested in what you’re saying, ask them what their thoughts about peer pressure are.

Drug Statistics Teenagers

  • Be prepared to talk about your drug use. Teens are twice as likely to get drunk and three times more likely to smoke cigarettes and marijuana if they’ve witnessed their parents get drunk. If your teen has seen you use drugs or alcohol, let them know you take responsibility for your actions. Let them know you’ve changed because of the consequences of drug use. You need to be able to set a good example for your child, and if you struggle with drug abuse, get the help you need.
  • Help your teen understand risk factors. Educate yourself first about addiction so that you can share your knowledge with your teen and answer questions they might have. Let them know that they may be more vulnerable to addiction because of a family history of substance abuse. Also let them know if they are at risk of developing depression or another health condition that can be triggered by drug use.
  • Be ready to accept your teen for who they are. If you create a space that encourages honesty, your teen may share some personal information that might shock you. Resist getting angry or upset. Show your teen you love them and support them fully no matter who they are.

Signs Your Teen Might Be Abusing Drugs

If you suspect your teen is abusing drugs but have not yet proved it, there are certain signs to look for that will give you good enough reason to approach them about drug abuse. However, even without proof, don’t hesitate to follow the tips above and talk honestly and openly with your teen. Here are some signs of drugs abuse:

  • Your teen’s eyes are bloodshot and they avoid eye contact. They may have a burn mark on their mouth or fingers from smoking a substance, such as marijuana, through a metal or glass pipe.
  • Your teen has regular nosebleeds, possibly as a result of cocaine abuse.
  • You notice the scent of marijuana or cigarette smoke in the house, on your teen’s clothes or their breath. You may notice they are trying to mask smells with perfume or air freshener.
  • Your teen is lying to you for no apparent reason. They display sneaky or manipulative
  • Your teen no longer hangs out with friends they’ve had for a long time. Instead, they are spending time with older kids or with people you know very little about.
  • Your child skips school, no longer has interest in extracurricular activities, fails to meet their responsibilities and is doing poorly academically when they used to care about their grades.
  • You notice things are missing, such as jewelry, cash, prescription medicine or alcohol.
  • Your teen is unusually aggressive, irritable or depressed.
  • You notice extreme changes in your teen’s behavior. Maybe they are breaking the rules when they usually respect you. They might run away or react violently to restrictions.
  • Your teen’s appearance changed. They may lose interest in hygiene or wearing nice, clean clothes.
  • They may display withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, vomiting, irritability, fatigue, sweating or insomnia.
  • Your teen appears intoxicated. They may display bizarre behavior, slur their words or have trouble walking.
  • Your teen has sudden weight gain or weight loss. Their eating habits may change.
  • They depend on drugs or alcohol to feel good or cope with stress.
  • You find paraphernalia in their room or car such as tin foil, pipes, lighters, needles, ziplock bags or empty vials.

You know your teen better than anyone, so it’s most important to go with your instinct and reach out to your child if you suspect anything.

Tips to Prevent Your Teen From Abusing Drugs

The best thing you can do for your teen with respect to drug use is prevent them from using in the first place. Unfortunately, you can’t control everything your teen does — but you can offer support and set some rules as a parent. Here are some tips to help you keep your teens away from drugs:

  • Establish rules and be clear about them. Let them know exactly what you expect and stick to it. Let them know the reasons for the rules so they don’t feel you are trying to control them just for the sake of it. Show you appreciate that they respect your rules with affection and praise.
  • Enforce the rules. Make sure your teen is clear about the consequences if they break one of your rules and be consistent with punishment. Do not be too severe with punishment and make sure they understand exactly why they are being punished. You may restrict computer or cell phone use, for example. Or maybe don’t allow them to hang out with friends for a week. Keep punishment no longer than three weeks so your teen doesn’t forget why they’re being punished.
  • Know where your teen is and who they hang out with.
  • Set a curfew. A CASA survey found that the later teens stay out on a school night, the more likely they are to use drugs or alcohol with their friends. Be willing to compromise with your teen about the curfew on special occasions.
  • Keep an eye on alcohol and medication in the house. Keep it locked up or hidden. Thirty-four percent of teens said the prescription drug abusers they knew got their drugs from home.

Teens and Time With Parents

  • Spend quality time with your child. A 2011 survey found that 18 percent of teenagers said they would like to spend more time with their parents.
  • Talk to them about drugs. Teach them healthy ways to cope with stress.
  • Have dinner with your child as often as you can. Teens are almost four times more likely to have used alcohol, and two and a half times as likely to have used marijuana, if they had family dinner fewer than three times per week.
  • Be part of your child’s life. Participate in activities with them, help them with homework and have fun together.
  • Always be available for your child. Offer to listen to them and support them no matter what they are going through.
  • Keep your child engaged. If they seem bored, encourage activities they might enjoy.
  • Set a good example. Your child is going to look to you for clues on how to live and behave. Show them how to live a healthy and happy life by practicing healthy habits and by having a positive outlook. If you need help with addiction, make it a priority to get help.

Overall, you want to be there for your child and they need to know that. However, not only do you need to be a friend, but you also still need to be a parent. Don’t be afraid to set rules and punish your child if they break them. Your teen needs stability and a sense of security just as much as they need your love and affection.

How to Get Help for Your Teen

Supporting Your Teenager Drug Abuse

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to be the best parent possible, your teen is still going to act how they wish. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. It just might mean your teen needs help beyond your support.

Addiction is a serious disease that often requires professional intervention. If your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they feel unable to stop using the drug. Depending on the drug and the amount of the drug your teen is using, they may need medical supervision during withdrawal.

It’s also important that your teen meets with a counselor. Your teen needs help getting to the source of their addiction and working through complex emotions with the help of a professional. Your teen may also be suffering from depression, anxiety or another mental condition. Any underlying condition needs to be addressed to help your teen recover.

Nip addiction in the bud while your child is still young. Contact Synergy Recovery Services today to get your child the treatment they need and deserve. With the help of our caring counselors and individual treatment plans, Synergy Recovery Services will help your child realize that their future is bright no matter what challenge they face and that they can live a healthy, happy and fulfilling life.

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