It has become very common to see young people experimenting, for the first time, with marijuana at age 12 to 14. Tobacco use may begin as early as age 11 and is very common in most high schools. While many may be able to experiment with the drug of their choice and stop as they choose, others may develop a dependency or move on to become a habitual user of more serious drugs, resulting in serious health problems.
Most teens using drugs may feel indestructible or in denial of any consequences that may come from using. They may have an attitude that they can quit at any time, and it is their life. They are, typically, oblivious to the negative health effects of tobacco, alcohol, or marijuana and may defend their use as “normal teenage behaviors.” As a parent, you look for signs of alcohol or drug use and may be in the dark for some time. Parents are sometimes the last one to know what their child is into even though they may try very hard to stay in touch with their child and their school. Kids are very good at masking their issues and fooling their parents. Those at risk for developing serious alcohol and drug problems include those:
- Having a genetic predisposition or family history of risky activities
- Low self-esteem
- Lonely/having few friends or social life
The most commonly used substance in high school is marijuana and alcohol. However, OTCs (over-the-counter meds), such as cold medication, cough syrup, sleep aides, diet pills, inhalants, glue or certain solvents, have become more popular over the past decade because of availability and cost. These are being abused by middle school and high school students alike with negative consequences. The use of illegal drugs, such as marijuana, stimulants, cocaine, crank, LSD, PCP, and ecstasy are increasing among young teens all over the US. There are no economic boundaries on drug usage, and it is becoming more acceptable in social circles all over the US. The negative consequences of drug use would include an addiction to more serious drugs, failing grades, disengagement from family, making poor choices that may result in accidents or violence, having sex, or even suicide. Serious health issues may also be a result of drug or alcohol consumption. Warning signs for parents may include:
- Withdrawing from the family/arguing or breaking family rules
- Skipping school/poor academic success
- Red and glazed eyes, repeat cough, fatigue
- Mood swings from depression, anger, irritability
- Change of interests including peer group
- Stealing from family members or others
As parents notice significant changes in their teen, they should have a comprehensive evaluation done to rule out other possible related disorders that may be treated as well as the risky activities. Early detection and treatment may certainly result in more favorable outcomes for your child. As a parent, you should not be afraid to confront your child if you suspect that he/she is becoming involved in the use of substance. Remember that your child is in danger of further harm and is, most likely, not going to come to you for help.