Teen Drug Abuse and Addiction


Throughout childhood and early adolescents, most young people are influenced primarily by their parents, caregivers, and other relatives. But during the teen years, peers begin to exert a strong influence as well. Peer pressure can cause otherwise level-headed kids to take unnecessary risks, such as experimenting with alcohol or other drugs.

While the teenage years are typically marked by a desire for greater independence, teens still need close relationships with their parents and caregivers. They need to know they can turn to you if they have questions or problems.

In other words, your influence is still an important and necessary part of your child’s teen years. Here are some helpful tips for staying connected with your teenager:

  • Spend time together.
  • Talk openly and honestly about things both silly and serious.
  • Praise your child’s accomplishments.
  • Listen.
  • Regularly share meals as a family.
  • Know your child’s friends and their parents.
  • Set reasonable rules and limits, and stick to them.
  • Talk about risky behaviors and potential consequences before a problem occurs.
  • Pay attention to your child’s stress level. If it seems unusually high, find out what’s going on.
  • Know your children well enough to know how susceptible they are to peer pressure.

According to the most recent edition of the Monitoring the Future survey of drug-related behaviors and attitudes among American youth, the drugs used most often by teenagers are marijuana and prescription medications.

Physical or behavioral changes in your teenager could indicate that he’s hanging out with some questionable people or has started experimenting with drugs or alcohol. Don’t assume the worst, but start asking questions if you notice some of the following changes:

  • Change in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or less than normal)
  • Sudden or dramatic change in weight (either loss or gain)
  • Neglecting appearance or hygiene
  • Skin abrasions or bruises
  • Getting sick more often than usual
  • Lying about whereabouts or friends
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or other previously enjoyed activities
  • Emotional instability, including depression or sudden outbursts of anger
  • Drop in school performance
  • Complaints from teachers or workplace supervisors
  • Changes in clothing style or other aspects of physical appearance
  • Unusual smells on clothing or breath
  • Unexplained change in friends

Whether you are a parent, grandparent or any other person who cares about a child’s future, it is important that you be knowledge about how to prevent teen drug abuse. It’s hard for us to imagine that a child we love could end up using drugs. But chances are, most children will be faced with, “Should I, or shouldn’t I?” As parents we must teach our children to know that the answer is, “I shouldn’t, and I won’t.”

Here are some facts about kids and drug use: Forty percent of U.S. teens say they expect to use a drug in the future. One out of every five kids in eighth grade has already tried marijuana. Use of substances such as marijuana and inhalants can result in social consequences (e.g., failing in school) and physical consequences such as reduced stamina and fitness or damage to the lungs and brain. Teens who smoke cigarettes are more likely to drink alcohol. Teens who smoke and drink are more likely to use marijuana. And those who use all three are more likely to use other illicit drugs. Long-term studies show that use of other illicit drugs among youth almost never occurs unless they have first used marijuana.

If you suspect your teenager of using drugs or alcohol, sit down and talk to him. Avoid jumping to conclusions or being judgmental. Simply explain the changes you’ve seen in him, express your concern, and ask for an explanation. If you’re certain that substance abuse is an issue, talk with your child’s doctor and ask for help.

Be especially scrutinizing as you determine the drug rehab program that meets your child’s specific needs. Many of these teen programs also offer boarding school academics so they can continue to earn credits while recovering from their addiction.


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