What is substance abuse?
Teenagers can experiment with a variety of drugs, both legal and illegal. Legally available drugs can include alcohol, inhalants (fumes from glues, aerosols and solvents), prescription medications, and over-the-counter cough, cold, sleep and diet medications. The most commonly used illegal drugs are marijuana (also known as pot or weed), stimulants (cocaine, crack and speed), LSD, PCP, opiates, heroin and Ecstasy. The use of illegal drugs is increasing, especially among young teens. In Johnson County, the average age of first marijuana and alcohol use is 14 years old (Communities that Care Survey, 2010).
Signs & Symptoms
- Demanding more privacy, locking doors, avoiding eye contact, sneaking around
- Changes in school performance
- Declining interest in activities your teen once enjoyed
- Change in friend groups
- Unusual borrowing of money from friends or parents
- Loss of motivation
- Change in sleep patterns: difficulty falling asleep, sleeping too much or too little, or difficulty staying asleep
- Poor hygiene
- Frequent use of strong cologne/perfume, eye drops, breath mints, air fresheners, or mouthwash
- Sudden personality changes that include abrupt changes in school attendance, work output, grades, discipline
- Unpredictable mood swings that seem to be more than just teen hormones
- Nervous: excessive nervousness, irritability, restlessness, anxiety
Utilize outside help and support: “outside help” is not always rehab. Outside help could involve talking to your teen’s school counselor, family doctor or sports coach. There are several methods that professionals can use to determine how to help your son or daughter, including:
- Drug and Alcohol Assessment- An assessment can be done over the phone or a face-to-face visit with a professional. This is usually done at a treatment facility with a doctor or counselor.
- Drug tests: Although at-home drug tests are available, some can be unreliable. Having a doctor perform a drug test can yield more accurate results.
AlcoholEDU course for parents
In addition, research has shown that parents have the greatest influence on the decisions teens make about alcohol. Because of this we strongly recommend parents to take AlcoholEdu for High School Parents. In this 15-20 minute module you will find:
- Information regarding Social Host Laws
- The latest research on underage drinking
- Tips and tools for talking to your teen about alcohol
- Strategies for setting rules and monitoring your teen
- 1. Visit Brainshark Player
- 2. Enter your name
- 3. Enter your child’s school and district
- 4. Click “submit” to start the course
- 5. Click play to advance the slides
Does teaching my teen to drink help them learn to drink responsibly?
Allowing your teenager to drink alcohol with you may actually backfire as an approach to teaching responsible drinking, according to a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. It was determined that the more a teenager drinks at home with his or her family, the more he or she drinks outside of the home.
There are many laws in place that impose severe punishments for adults who allow teens to drink in their home, even if the adult is not there. It is a crime to give alcohol to a minor.
What should I do if I suspect that my teen is drinking or using drugs?
Ask them. If you suspect that your son or daughter is lying, consult a professional for a drug test. Keeping an open line of communication is one of the best ways to help your teen stay away from drug or alcohol use.
If I suspect that my teen is using, where should I look to confirm my suspicions?
Places to look
- Dresser drawers, socks, beneath or between clothes, in pockets of pants
- Desk drawers
- Cars: glove box, ash trays, under seats
- CD/DVD/Tape/Video cases
- Small boxes – jewelry, pencil, etc.
- Under a bed or mattress
- Between books on a bookshelf
- In books with pages cut out
- Makeup cases – inside fake lipstick tubes or compacts
- Inside over-the-counter medicine containers
- Backpacks/duffle bags
What are some ways I can help my child stay away from drugs and alcohol?
- Set rules within the house: Make sure that your family knows that there is zero tolerance for use of drugs/alcohol. Be sure to set consequences for breaking this rule.
- Keep tabs on your teen: Always know where they will be and what they will be doing when away from the house unsupervised. Be sure to occasionally check up on your teen and make sure that they are where they said they will be.
- Know your teen’s friends and their parents. Offer to have them over to your house for a movie night or make plans to attend an event together.
- Encourage your teen to be involved in after-school activities: sports, clubs, fitness programs, etc. The more they are involved, the less time they have to experiment with drugs or alcohol.
- Talk to your teen: Ask them how their day went, about their friends, what plans they have for the weekend, etc.
- Plan family activities: Strengthen the bond that you have with your teen.
- Make a habit of borrowing your child’s car on short notice. If you do this, they will not have time to clean out the car or hide anything they shouldn’t have in it.
- If your child goes to a party, ask them to call you half way into the night. Also, mention that you will call them. Teens are less likely to get drunk if they know they have to have a coherent conversation with you.