drug addiction

Teenage Drug Abuse. Is your teen involved in drugs?

Do you know for sure or do you just think maybe they are?

Have you noticed any of the obvious signs of teenage drug abuse, such as smelling smoke or chemicals in their room? Have you seen anything which you think may be drug paraphernalia? Not sure? Then check out our drug paraphernalia page. Teenage drug abuse is on the increase. Teens and even pre-teens get exposed to drugs. There are some steps you can take to do some drug prevention and also action to take if your teen has fallen into the drug trap.

A good selection of drug test kits are available on line and in many drug stores. Remember, if you get one, use one!

Let's talk prevention first. The very best way to do some prevention work is to talk. It is best to start when they are young to raise drug-proof kids.

Ask questions, chat about things, be involved in their lives, and involve them in your life. In my household, dinner was a family meal. The TV went off and we sat at the table. We shared what we had been doing during the day. We asked the kids opinions on things, everything from repainting the lounge to where to go on a weekend outing, and yes....teenage drug abuse too. Even when they were small we involved them in every aspect of daily living. By the time they were teenagers, they knew that we were interested in where they were going, and who their friends were. Thus it was easy to spot any possible problems before they got out of hand.

If you are not already talking and listening to your children, plan to start now. Those youngsters whose parents are always on the run and do not have time to talk about teenage drug abuse, or do not have time to listen, will most likely be the ones who turn to their friends and drugs for support. Even the best parents get caught up in the day-to-day struggles of life, but if you really want to keep your children drug free, then you must adjust your schedule to allow for talk time.

OK so what if you are here because you think you child has started down the drug path. Here are some things to look for:

  • Changes in attitude.This usually means negative changes. Mood swings without known reason. Many parents assume that teens have mood swings and that they are normal but they can be a sign of drug use. Be aware!
  • Decline in school work. Failing grades or poor school attendance is another area of concern. Is your child skipping classes, missing assignments, late for school or are there any other school related problems? Do you know for sure that your child in actually in school when they are supposed to be?

  • Changes in friends.This is a biggie. Isolation from previous friends, getting in with a different crowd, especially if they are reluctant to bring those friends home, can indicate a possible problem. I always made a point of seeing and meeting my daughter's friends. As an adult I knew I could spot potential problems before they morph into something bigger.

  • Changes in clothing. There is a lot of clothing marketed to young people with hidden drug logos. Would you know what to look for? Changes in appearance may send up red flags especially if they go along with tattoos, piercings etc.

  • Discipline problems or Violence Either at home or at school. Violence towards people or animals. This may be physical or verbal.

  • Stealing. I know that you do not want to think that your child could be a thief. Sadly, drug users of any age will steal to support their habit. Look out for things which may not be used often so their absence might not be noticed for a long time. Check jewel boxes, tools, electrical items, DVD's, coin or stamp collections. Do not assume that because the containers are in place that the contents are still there. Yes, I know it is an ugly thought, but many parents have discovered, too late, that Aunt Jane's wedding band or Granddad's coin collection have gone missing.

  • Changes in interests or hobbies. Obviously young people go through times of changing their interests. I am not talking about Shaun going from playing the flute in the school orchestra to playing basketball. This will be more about less enthusiasm for any type of hobby or previous interest. Incidentally this can also be a marker for depression so it is worth check this one out.

  • Physical Illness. This can be anything from spells of 'flu to sores on face or arms, picking at skin, sinus problems, weight loss (big one for girls given the current understanding about bulimia), reddened eyes and changes in eating habits.

    • Additional things to watch for:
    • Room or clothing smelling of smoke or chemicals.
    • Incense being used to mask smells.
    • Bottles of eye drops.
    • Breath mints or breath freshener.
    • Room deodorizers (used to mask smells)
    • Small containers such as eye drop bottles which are not eye drops.
    • Pez containers or other small containers.
    • Unmarked liquids.
    • Spills of stuff you cannot identify.
    • Burn marks on furniture or clothing.
    • Chemical stains or burn marks on clothing, bedding or fingers.
    • Secretive use of the computer.
    • Going to dances known as raves. Raves are known for club drugs such as ecstasy GHB and ketamine which are almost always readily available.

    Are you children or teenagers on Antidepressants? If so there is some information that you need to know. You can read about children and antidepressants here.

    I know that many of the things listed above are a normal part of children growing up. It is your job as a parent to check this list and decide what things apply to your situation. One or two by themselves probably do not mean much, but if you have a number of concerns in different areas, then you may already have an out-of-control teen and you will need to do more investigating and a lot more work.

    Ok now we come to the hard part. You have found drugs or drug paraphernalia on your child, or worse yet, you have got the phone call that all parents dread, from the police or the school, saying your child was found with drugs.
    Take a deep breath.... and consider your actions. A lot will depend on how you deal with this first drug crisis. If you feel like yelling at your child, take a time out yourself until you have calmed down. Getting upset or shouting will only make your child defensive and you will lose the opportunity to use this as a valuable lesson.

    If you have found drugs, either on your child or in their room or clothing you will need to take action but preferably not in an accusing way, as this will most likely make your child clam up and be uncooperative. Try and talk calmly. Ask why they have the drugs or why they are using drugs. Listen to them. Let them talk.

    Let them know that because you love them, you will not allow them to harm themselves by using any drugs. Assure them that you love them no matter what, but you do not like what they are doing and it will not be tolerated. If you have already been clear about your feelings over drug use, then this will not come as any surprise to your child. If you have never really talked to your child about drug use, you may need to start by explaining why drugs are not acceptable, citing things such as health issues, being illegal and the possibility of time in detention or juvenile hall or jail.

    You may want to download and print my Letter to a Teen. Go here to read the letter( PDF) in your browser, or right-click to download it.

    Let them know that you are taking this seriously and you will be checking up on them and also there will be repercussions. These may vary from taking away privileges such as phone, cell phone or Internet use, or driving a car. Explain that any drug use make them unsafe to drive and that a car is a dangerous weapon and that they may kill someone else if not themselves.

    You may have to resort to getting a drug test kit. Parents will often get one and then do not want to use it. However, one of the saddest stories I ever heard was from a seventeen year old girl whose mother bought a test kit and then never used it because, as she told her daughter, she did not want to seem like she distrusted her. The daughter told me that she wished so much that her mother had put her foot down and used the kit. That way she would have got help sooner. So, if you feel the need to get a drug test kit, do not just threaten but USE IT. One of the worst things any parent can do is to threaten and then not follow through. If you threaten any consequence, then you MUST follow through, or your credibility with you child will be lost.

    You may also want to speak to their school if it is likely that they got drugs from some of their school friends. Most schools have counselors and some have police officers assigned to the school. An informal chat with either one can help and should be confidential. You can also check to see if your school or local area has any type of drug prevention programs. If not, consider helping to start one. If your child is into drugs, then you can be sure other kids are too.

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