The Impact on your Child’s Development
No one has a dream or goal to become an addict when they try drugs. Unfortunately, it’s not up to them. This is especially true for teens. Their brains are still developing through adolescence and the risk of addiction is higher than that of adults.
According to sources, “By the time adolescents do require treatment for [addiction], they are well on their way through the developmental stages during which risk emerges”. What does this mean in layman’s terms? Basically, this means that we need to be aware of the risk factors and the outcomes or drug use. People who use and abuse drugs at a young age often suffer from mental health problems, including depression, personality disorders and suicidal thoughts later in life. The specific damage that can be done is extremely concerning.
However, you are the anti-drug.
One in three parents believe there is little they can do to prevent teen drug use. However, evidence that shows parental involvement is the strongest factor in prevention. So the good news is that you can make a direct and positive impact on your teen’s mental health. The bad news is that more and more teens are using to the point of addiction…just how many?
The Statistics are Alarming
Statistics don’t lie.
As parents, you can choose to ignore the findings, however, it’s important to pay attention before your own child becomes a statistic. Below are many alarming stats from recent U.S. Health and Human Services report that will make you cringe.
- In 2018, over 15% of American 12th-graders misused prescription drugs.
- There were 5,455 deaths due to drug overdose among teens in 2017.
- In 2017, about one in four high school seniors used an illicit drug, such as heroin or marijuana, in the past 30 days.
- In 2016, more than 1.4 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 needed treatment for an illicit drug problem.
- From 2014 to 2015, the rate of drug overdose deaths among teens in the United States increased by 19 percent.
- In 2015, 5% of high school students (grades 9-12) reported using any form of cocaine.
Where are the Drugs Coming From?
Without you realizing it, you may actually be feeding your child’s curiosity and habit. While parents certainly don’t want to admit they are enabling their children to use drugs, a 2013 study reports that over half of teens got prescription drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Most parents are in denial that their child would ever do something like that … but it might be happening, right in front of your eyes.
As a precaution, parents need to ensure their children and their friends don’t have access to any prescription medication that can be harmful to them.
Teens are well aware of the intoxicating effects prescription drugs can have on them. So what can you do? If you’re a parent with a script for OxyContin or Xanax, just to name a few, make sure they’re out of reach. Pay attention to how many pills you have, so if any are missing, you’ll notice. Medications like these are highly addictive and can lead to overdose.
What you may consider to be a harmless everyday medication lying around the house, such as cough medicine, may be seen by your teen as a way to get high. You baby-proofed your house when your child was a toddler to protect them. How is teen-proofing any different?
How to Approach your Child
If you suspect your teen is using drugs, or even selling drugs, you need to act swiftly. Some of the main signs of a problem include when your teen starts:
- Acting differently
- Looking unhealthy
- Losing interest in their normal activities such as sports
- Not performing well at school
If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to have a conversation with them. The reality is your child may not admit the truth for fear of punishment, embarrassment or judgement. Often, the signs are obvious. So, you need to master open communication. When you communicate without judgment and your message comes with a lot of love, your family can get through this.
When you connect with your teen on an emotional level instead of shaming and blaming, they’re more likely to share the why, the how and the how long.
No one wants their child to use drugs. While your initial reaction of discovering drug use may be to yell and be angry at your child, overreacting will only push your teen further away. It’s time to put your emotions to the side and discover how deep your teen may be into their drug habit. How can you do this?
Try to get into the mind of your addicted teen and see more from their perspective. Let your child know how important they are to you and how you only wish them health, happiness and success in their future, all the things drugs can and will destroy. Research tells us that teens who feel supported and loved are more likely to stop experimenting with drugs or seek help if they have an addiction.
You can make a difference in your child’s life and there is support out there to help your family get through this. There is no guarantee your child will never use drugs just because you’re a loving and present parent, however, you will be able to reduce the possibility of your child experimenting with drugs, possibility leading to addiction.
There are many programs available and while it can be overwhelming to figure out which one is right for your child, there is help to navigate through these uncharted and choppy waters. Organizations such as HelpYourTeenNow, an advocacy group, is dedicated to helping parents understand which form of treatment is best for their child, free of charge.
Preventing the Problem
So, how can you prevent your kids from getting into trouble with drugs or alcohol?
Believe it, or not…your presence alone goes a long way. Let your child know you care. Be present in their life and make an effort to know who your child is hanging out with. This will enable you to feel comfortable with their choice of friends or be able to recognize when there may be a concern.
Then…talk, talk, talk. Talk to your kids about drugs, even if you’re convinced they aren’t using them. While they may roll their eyes or consider you a clueless parent, there could be important information you offer they may not have been aware of.
Finally, create a plan of action in case your child is ever put in an uncomfortable situation where drugs may be present. Whether it’s texting or calling with a code word, let them know you are available to pick them up no matter what time or where, no questions asked. Parents! Stop pretending drugs aren’t an issue. Kids are getting high right now, in your community,and possibly right in your home.
Face the Music
Parents, it’s time to wake up.
The statistics don’t lie. Your child is at risk for using drugs. It’s very scary indeed but you have to face reality. “No, not my child”, isn’t going to cut it. While your child may be sweet and honest and immature, s/he is facing a new world. There’s peer pressure, curiosity, an escape from something happening in their lives…. and many other reasons your child could be dabbling into the world of drugs.
This article isn’t to frighten you, but rather to educate you, and perhaps save your child’s life. The youth of today feel they are untouchable and don’t have much worry about the long-term damage drugs can have on their bodies. Talk to your kids. Talk to other parents.