We all tell our kids to say no to drugs and underage drinking. We try to scare them into compliance with drug abuse statistics, pointing out examples of what happens when someone is addicted to drugs: arrests, lost jobs, lost homes, bad health, and even drug overdose that results in death. While any and all of these are enough to scare an adult and make us think twice about our choices, teens are more interested in what will make them popular, and make them feel good. Teens are by nature curious and experimental. They want to find out about everything, so when a friend tells them to just “try it” this one time. They are more likely to succumb to the peer pressure and give it a try.
Because we know and understand the real consequences of drug abuse and alcohol addiction, and because we all know our kids are good kids and don’t believe they will ever choose to get involved in any self-destructive behavior, we may not have any hard and fast rules about drug and alcohol use. Creating a drug and alcohol contract, which can include any number of forbidden substances, is a really good idea. By creating such a contract you will have the opportunity to openly talk to your teen about what your expectations are as well as give them hard and fast rules about what their consequences will be if they choose to use any of these substances.
Many people believe that if their child tries marijuana it isn’t a big deal. The problem is that as the body gets used to one type of drug, teenagers will begin experimenting with other, more dangerous drugs, like prescriptions drugs, and may eventually even try cocaine or heroin. If you think your child may already be abusing drugs or alcohol because they are showing behavior that you recognize as drug use warning signs, seek out drug treatment and substance abuse counseling for them immediately. The longer you wait, the more damage they will have to their body and the harder it will be for them to break the addiction.
Drug and alcohol abuse warning signs can vary greatly from person to person. If you notice any extreme behavior in your child or teen, such as:
- low self esteem
- sudden mood swings
- new health problems
- extreme changes of any kind: eating, sleeping, friends, dress, etc.
- problems at school
- or violence at home
talk to your teen and try to find out what is going on. If they refuse to admit there is a problem, seek outside help. Most schools and communities offer programs for troubled teens and have specialized training to help struggling teens get the help they need. While there are a number of residential treatment programs and other great services that offer help and hope to families and individuals with drug and/or alcohol addictions, prevention is always the best option. Let your teen know what you expect of him/her and make sure you follow through with those expectations. We understand that no one can prevent all bad things from happening. Regardless of what your teen chooses, assure him/her that you love them and only disapprove of the behavior they have chosen. It will take a lot of love and support for any troubled teen to get the help they need, but with your love and support they can do it.