Teen Drug Abuse: A Guide For Parents
It’s not easy to talk to teenagers about many things. Among them is drug abuse. It’s challenging to find out if they are using drugs, especially if they’re addicted to them.
An Indian survey conducted in 2005-2006 reported that 28.6% of teens used tobacco and 11% drank alcohol. A few studies also reported some substance abuse in surveys conducted in the previous 2 decades. Research on street kids found a higher substance use of up to 70%.
Inhalants, cannabis, tobacco, and alcohol use are most commonly abused among teens. Most adults who seek treatment report beginning alcohol/substance use during their teenage years.
The Causes of Alcohol and Substance Use
Adolescents use or abuse alcohol and substances for similar reasons as adults. Their lives have become demanding, and their stress is real. They feel vulnerable due to the 21st-century lifestyle and academic pressure. The way they look and feel as a human being set in early, making them find solace in alcohol and substance use. Marijuana is a common method teens use to relax their mind and body.
Many teens start using drugs to have fun with friends and to fit in with the crowd. Sometimes, what begins as peer pressure, curiosity, and anxiety-relieving method turns into an addiction.
The Signs of Teen Drug Abuse
It’s important to understand that most adolescents who use alcohol or substances don’t become addicts in their adult life. It’s best to stop its use because of the damage it causes to their mind and body. Early signs of drug use can be spotted when their appearance or behaviour changes. Some such signs are:
- Declining performance at school
- Social isolation, lethargy, or depression
- Acting hostile or having anger outbursts at home
- Changes in appearance, mood, and sleep patterns
- Lying and often manipulating, disrespecting others, and disregarding rules
- Lack of motivation is a red flag. Low morale and poor productivity are prominent signs of drug abuse
- Unexpected weight gain or weight loss, and skin discolouration
How To Prevent Drug Use or Abuse
It’s a common misconception that marijuana and alcohol use can cause addiction to hard drugs. No evidence suggests a parenting method will work to prevent nicotine, alcohol, or substance use. Though, you can reduce the probability.
- Build a close and trusting relationship with your children. It’s important to realise that you might not become friends with them, but you can create a safe space for them to open up about things they’re struggling with.
- Talk about addiction. Educate yourself about drug use and share your personal experience of alcohol or drug use, if any. Make sure not to judge their views.
- Talk about the concept of peer pressure and using healthy coping techniques to manage stress. You should also teach them about the repercussions of alcohol and substance use, for example, jail time due to drunk driving.
- Be involved in your child’s life. Make sure you know who their friends are. Children usually turn to drugs if their friends also abuse them. Another cause is if your child is isolating themselves. Make sure also to give them enough space.
What If Your Teen is Abusing Drugs
Follow the above steps before you take any strict actions. Aggression, shaming, and blaming your kids will drive them away making things worse and will not give any beneficial results. Take the following steps if you feel or know that your child is abusing drugs.
- Remain calm because becoming angry or issuing ultimatums is counter-productive. Take some time to think and form a strategy that will help your child feel comfortable expressing and create a desire to overcome addiction.
- It is advisable not to search your child’s room for drugs. They’ll lose your trust and it will cause them to become aggressive and untruthful.
- Consider having a verbal or written contract after having a calm conversation. Create mutual compromises, where you can promise to pick your child up anytime and anywhere if they promise never to drive drunk and drink within the limit.
- Try to find the cause of their behaviour. Is it peer pressure or stress or an unhealthy relationship that is making them feel overwhelmed? Talk to them and tell them some healthy ways they can cope with these things. At the same time, make sure that you listen more and talk less.
- Have them speak to a counsellor with your support. You can drive them and be part of some sessions if needed.
Communication Might Include Seeking Professional Help
Family therapy is an approach where the assessment and intervention are conducted for the entire family. The person suffering from addiction is the primary person, and the method uses the family’s strengths to help with the treatment.
There’s a difference between family therapy and family-involved therapy. The former involves the family in sessions, and interventions are conducted. The family-involved approach educates the families about how their relationship could trigger or contribute to alcohol or substance addiction in your child. Many rehabilitation centres offer the latter approach to therapy.
Therapy can help both you and your child understand each other and how addiction affects the entire family. Questions like how and why the child is abusing drugs and how it impacts the parents are answered. The whole family needs to bring change due to a person’s addiction, and your child needs to understand that you and the other members of your family are not ganging up against them. Therapy helps and is highly recommended.
Beschner, G. M., & Friedman, A. S. (Eds.). (1986). Teen drug use. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books. https://www.ojp.gov/ncjrs/virtual-library/abstracts/teen-drug-use