Catching and Preventing Drug Addiction in Your Teenager

Parenting a teenager can be a stressful time. During their teenage years, your child may be asserting their independence now more than ever. Sometimes this means they are trying new and dangerous things, including drugs.

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According to the Office of Adolescent Health, alcohol, marijuana and tobacco are the three most frequently used substances among teenagers. By their senior year in high school, about half of all teenagers have tried at least one illicit drug.  Teenage drug and alcohol abuse continues to be a problem nationwide. Catching and preventing drug addiction early in your teenager may save his or her life.

Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse Statistics

How prevalent is teenage drug and alcohol abuse? For 8th graders, common statistics include:

  • 11% used marijuana
  • 3% used inhalants
  • 2% abused cough medicine (DXM)
  • 7% tried tranquilizers
  • 1% abused Vicodin
  • 1% abused OxyContin
  • 1% tried cocaine
  • A little under 1% tried Ecstasy

By the time kids reach their senior year in high school, they have taken their experimentation much further. Among 12th grade students:

  • 35% used marijuana
  • 7% used tranquilizers
  • 8% abused Vicodin
  • 1% abused cough medicine (DXM)
  • 3% abused OxyContin
  • 6% tried Cocaine
  • 6% used Ecstasy

Teens use inhalants and DXM less frequently as they get older, but tend to turn to harder drugs and hallucinogens like Ecstasy. As teens enter college, many end up experimenting and frequently become addicted to both illegal and prescription medications because drugs are easier to come by.

Teen Prescription Drug Abuse

Teen prescription drug abuse is on the rise. Teens have easier access to prescription drugs thanks to overly prescribed painkillers. For example, teens who get their wisdom teeth out frequently receive Vicodin prescriptions, or their parents’ medicine cabinet may contain OxyContin and tranquilizers. Other medications prescribed for ADHD, such as Adderall, can be resold, shared and abused.

Teen Alcohol Abuse

Although the national incidence of teen alcohol abuse, especially binge drinking, declined in a 2014 study, it’s still a major problem. 9% of 8th graders, 23.5 % of 10th graders and 37.4% of 12th graders all reported using alcohol in the past month.

Considering that all of them are years away from the legal drinking age, how are they getting alcohol? Many raid their parents’ liquor cabinets or beg older siblings and friends to buy for them. Others find sources where identification isn’t checked as often as it should be. As in years past, it’s still too easy for teens to find and consume alcohol.

Signs of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

It’s easy to feel secure and think, “My kid would never abuse drugs and alcohol.” But with these statistics, it’s clear that nearly all teens have access to illicit drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol. Ask your teenager if he knows where to find drugs. He might know a few kids who can find him any drug he asks for. As a parent, you need to know the signs of drug abuse so you can catch and prevent addiction early in your teenager.

Common signs of drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • School problems such as suddenly failing classes, not turning in homework or failing tests.
  • Increases in disciplinary actions, such as demerits, penalties or absences.
  • Skipping school or asking to stay home more frequently due to unexplained illnesses.
  • Changes in behavior, such as an outgoing kid becoming withdrawn or a shy kid suddenly talkative.
  • Money disappearing from around the house.
  • Liquor tasting funny or disappearing from the house.
  • Cough medicine disappearing from the medicine cabinet.
  • Prescription drugs missing or amount to less than you thought.
  • Bloodshot eyes and shaky hands.
  • Poor personal hygiene and grooming.
  • Memory lapses.
  • Slurred speech.
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much.
  • Loss of interest in things your child once loved, such as hobbies or entertainment.
  • Legal troubles, such as being caught shoplifting.

How to Prevent Teen Drug Abuse

We all know how peer pressure can affect the choices teens make, and many parents worry about how to prevent drug abuse in teens. We understand your concerns, and we want to encourage you to be a trusted source of empowerment for your teen. Drug abuse is preventable, and with that in mind, we put together some practical ideas for preventing teen drug abuse:

  •  Enroll your teen in drug abuse prevention programs. A recent study found that 52 percent fewer teens used drugs when they were involved in a high school drug abuse prevention program. Choose a program that will teach strategies for thriving in challenging situations and provide empowerment to say “no” to drug and alcohol use.
  •  Build safe boundaries for your teen. Setting clear boundaries for your teen plays an important role in preventing teen drug addiction. Make sure your child understand your expectations concerning what activities they should and shouldn’t be involved in. Clearly communicate the consequences they will face if they break those boundaries.
  •  Talk frankly about the consequences of drug abuse. By having open and honest conversations about drug abuse, you can be a source of knowledge for you teen long before they’re exposed to drugs or alcohol. Share the dangers of drug use, making sure they know that their safety is your highest priority.
  •  Communicate openly with your teen. Establish an open line of communication with your child early on. Make a habit of talking with your teenager about what’s going on in his or her life. Ask regularly about the friends your teenager is spending time with, but never assume everything is okay just because you’re not seeing obvious warning signs of drug use.
  • Establish a close relationship. Make a conscious effort to create a strong bond with your child characterized by quality time and honest conversations. Make sure your teenager knows your home is a loving and accepting place. Close parent and child relationships are known to reduce the risk of drug use during teenage years.
  • Set a good example. Never abuse alcohol or addictive drugs. Children with parents who abuse drugs are significantly more likely to abuse drugs themselves. If you struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, set a good example by getting the help you need to gain freedom from your addiction.
  •  Be proactive. Regularly check your child’s room and backpack for signs of drug use. Develop relationships with their friends and the parents of their friends. Routinely check to make sure they’re where they said they would be, and address any warning signs immediately.

Preventing drug addiction means catching drug use early in your child and taking steps to make sure it doesn’t go any further. Trust your instincts — if you suspect that your teenager is experimenting with drugs or alcohol, chances are good that it’s happening. Have a serious talk with your teen. Set clear boundaries and limits and follow through when those boundaries are crossed.

If you tell your teenager they have to get up by a certain time and take a shower and they fail to complete these tasks, state the punishment and follow through with your threats. The worst thing you can do is make empty threats. Empty threats teach your teen that he can get away with the behavior. You can also ask your family physician or pediatrician for advice. You may ask your doctor to have a talk with your child when you bring him in for a sports or school physical.

Avoid leaving your child alone in an empty house over a weekend. Although you may think that your child is mature and responsible enough to stay home alone, even the best kids can be tempted to experiment when they have easy access to your medicine and liquor cabinets over an unsupervised weekend. Most importantly, be there to offer support and guidance for your teenager. When your teen comes to you for advice on dealing with drugs and alcohol, listen. Don’t yell. Offer help, support, guidance and love. It’s the best way to prevent drug experimentation from turning into outright addiction.

Help for Teen Substance Abuse

If you suspect that your teenager’s experimentation has progressed into substance abuse and addiction, it’s time to get help. 12 Keys Rehab offers a supportive environment to help teens and adults recover from drug and alcohol addiction. Recovery is personalized with a low client-to-counselor ratio, so each person receives the attention and help they need for a strong recovery. Our staff includes recovered drug and alcohol addicts who can mentor, guide and support your child through recovery because they’ve been there.

 If you’re still worried about your teenager’s current or potential drug use, contact 12 Keys now. If you’re concerned about the choices your teenager is making or you want additional support for preventing teen drug addiction, advice is just a phone call away.

While you may do your best to prevent teen drug abuse, catching and preventing drug and alcohol abuse is difficult. If you fear that your teen has become addicted to drugs and alcohol, contact 12 Keys Rehab today.

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