If You Suspect Your Child Is Using Drugs
Dr. Drew W. Edwards
Today 8000 people in the US will use an addictive drug for the first time. Sadly, most of these first-time users are children and teenagers. There are several reasons for this unprecedented and dangerous trend.
- The legalization of marijuana sends the message that getting high is harmless
- President Obama pronounced marijuana as, “no more dangerous than alcohol”. This is not only wrong, it is disingenuous. Tacit approval by our president has sent absolutely the wrong message to young our people, especially to black children and teens. God knows we don't need more unemployable young people.
- Today’s children are unsupervised. Most parents are simply unaware of their children’s activities, whereabouts and who they are hanging out with.
- Kids are bombarded by media messages telling them that drugs and alcohol are an essential ingredient for a good time.
- Dangerous drugs are now cheap and more accessible than ever.
- Community standards or prohibitions regarding alcohol use have eroded and no longer deter alcohol abuse or drunkenness.
Signs of substance abuse
Addiction among adolescents can be subtle and develop over the course of several months. Or it can come crashing in like a hurricane. Short of directly observing drug use in your teen there is no single factor for diagnosing a problem, there are, however, common warning signs.
- Change of friends and social interests
- Repeated violations of curfew and other family rules
- Abrupt changes in mood or attitude
- Change in appearance, such as weight loss, hairstyle, tattoos, or poor hygiene
- Change in appetite and sleep patterns, e.g., up late—sleeping during the day
- Sudden decline in attendance or performance at school
- Losing interest in activities that used to be important, e.g., sports or hobbies
- Uncharacteristic withdrawal from family and from positive friends
- Heightened secrecy about friends, activities and whereabouts
- Missing money or valuables from household
Don’t assume that drug using is a normal part of adolescence and they will grow out of it. It is not—and they wont. Moreover, don’t make the mistake of waiting for your child to hit their bottom because the bottom they hit may be jail, serious injury or even death. Here are some practical steps you can take:
- Don’t go it alone. Ask for emotional support. Let trusted friends, family or clergy in on the problem. Tell them you want their help.
- Have your child tested. If your child denies drug use, or tells you an unbelievable story that is contrary to the evidence, a simple urine drug test will detect commonly abused drugs such as marijuana, cocaine and most narcotics.
- Stop enabling the problem by making excuses or covering up for your child’s behavior. Your time is best spent in the solution. When a substance abusing teen has to face the consequences of his or her actions, they are more interested in seeking help.
- Confront your child directly—Stick to facts and feelings.
- Never bluff. Be willing to follow through on any conditions or promises you make. Be sure to communicate your expectations clearly and calmly.
- Contact an addiction professional in your community for information about education and treatment programs.
- Attend Al-a-non or Nar-a-non. These are programs offer peer support for family and friends of substance abusers.
Remember—Substance abuse problems are highly treatable. With professional help and family involvement, the chances for recovery are excellent.