While some consider experimentation with drugs and alcohol to be normal rites of passage for adolescents, experimentation can very easily, and very often does, lead to increased usage and even dependency/addiction. While experimentation for a short period of time may not result in long term, harmful effects, prolonged use of drugs and alcohol will almost always lead to significant, long term problems. Knowing the signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse can help parents identify problems early and allow them to work with their teenager to prevent further serious problems and even death.
Risk Factors for Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse
In some ways just being in high school now days is a risk factor for teens when it comes to drug and alcohol use. Studies indicate that nearly 100% of students graduating from high school have experimented with marijuana and/or alcohol. The average age of first exposure to marijuana is 14 while the average age of exposure to alcohol is 12. Prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications are also become popular teenage drugs of choice and their usage is increasing. Other popular illegal drugs that are being increasingly used by teenagers include PCP, cocaine and Risk factors that can lead to a serious drug and alcohol problem in teenagers include:
- Low self-esteem
- Familial history of drug abuse
- Feeling like an outsider
Warning Signs of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse
There is no single, reliable warning sign of teenage drug and alcohol abuse. There are, however, various warning signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse that parents should be aware of. Watching for these signs can help parents identify a potential problem and, under proper professional advice, intervene to assist their teenager. The following warning signs might be helpful in determining whether a teenager has a drug or alcohol problem:
- Emotional signs of teenage drug or alcohol abuse. Sudden mood swings, irresponsible behavior, lack of interest in activities of former interest, personality differences, low self esteem, irritability.
- Physical signs of teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Repeated health problems, lingering cough, fatigue, frequent headaches, red and glazed eyes.
- Social indications of teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Changes in friends and preferred activities, changes in style of dress, less attention to personal appearance, run-ins with the law, taking money or valuables from home.
- School problems associated with teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Dropping grades, discipline problems (frequent principal visits), decreased interest in school and extracurricular activities, truancy, increased tardiness, negative attitude.
- Family problems associated with teenage drug and alcohol abuse. Deliberate withdrawal from family and family oriented activities, violent outbursts, starting arguments, breaking curfew or sneaking out at night, breaking family rules.
What should a parent do if he/she is noticing these warning signs?
Seek professional help immediately. Contact your doctor or mental health professional for assistance. Havenwood specializes in helping teenagers who have drug and alcohol problems. We would be happy to consult with you to determine how we can help–CALL NOW.
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