Teenagers and Drugs – Know the Signs of Addiction

teenagers and drugs

The truth is that a vast majority of teenagers are not, nor ever will be, addicted to drugs. Nevertheless, your child will not go through his teenage years without being offered drugs and he may already know somebody who is taking them.

Dealing With Drugs

Some level of experimentation with “soft drugs” such as alcohol, tobacco and cannabis, should probably be regarded as normal teenage behaviour. But although there is little you can do to stop your teen experimenting with drugs when out of the house, this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to approve, you need to ensure that your teenager understands the risks associated with drugs, and set clear boundaries around what happens in your home.

If you don’t want drugs brought into the house, you can make this clear by reminding your teen that he is causing you to commit an offence if illegal drugs are knowingly consumed on your premises. If you suspect your teenager may be developing a drug problem of any kind, keep a close eye on the situation because he may need your help. There will inevitably be a number of telltale signs, even if your teen swears blind that nothing is wrong and that he has the situation under control.

Signs of Possible Drug Use

  • Abrupt mood changes, unexplained lack of motivation, increased levels of restlessness and irritability, or dramatic changes in sleeping patterns, although do not rule out other explanations.
  • If your child suddenly always needs money or items of value go missing.
  • If your child suddenly stops mixing with his old friends and seems reluctant to tell you much about the people he now hangs out with.
  • You can often detect the smell of alcohol, tobacco or marijuana on your teen’s breath. Smoking dope may give your teenager red eyes and a desire to eat (known as the munchies) and he may appear giggly or sleepy.
  • Heavy alcohol use may lead to a flushed appearance, dilated pupils, clumsiness and difficulty focusing.
  • Amphetamines or cocaine can make the user extremely animated, erratic and sometimes agitated. Long-term use of cocaine may lead to unexplained nose bleeds.
  • Pinpoint pupils, scratching and constant nodding off suggest heroin use. Long clothing may be used to disguise injection marks, and look out for burns on lips and fingers.

What Can Parents Do?

It can be a shock to discover that your teenager is using drugs, and you may feel angry or frightened. But it is important to take a step back and think about how you are going to deal with the situation. While you can’t actually stop your teenager taking drugs, having a coping strategy may help you feel less powerless.

Keep Calm

If you think your teenager is taking drugs, it’s important not to panic. If you overreact, you could make the situation worse. Try to remember that teenagers often use drugs to escape underlying feelings of despair or self-hatred. Your teen may need to confront these issues before she can deal with the drug use.

Get Informed

You’ll need to have the facts at your fingertips if you’re going to have any useful discussion with your teen about his drug use. If he thinks you don’t know what your talking about he will switch off.

Get Talking

Talk to your teenager about your concerns, but avoid being confrontational or judgemental. You can’t make her stop using drugs, but it’s important to try to help her find her own motivation to change. Try to focus on behaviour you have witnessed, and explain why it has troubled you. Emphasize that you want to understand and help in anyway you can. If your teen becomes abusive or angry, keep calm and bring the conversation to a halt.

Get Help

If your teen acknowledges that he has a problem, encourage him to seek professional help. Any attempt to reduce drug use will stand a better chance with support from a trained drugs counsellor, but it may be difficult to get him to this point, particularly if he is denying the severity of the problem. Your doctor will be able to advise you about local services, or you can search websites.

Set Limits

If your teenager begins to cause problems in the home as a result of drug use, you need to point out calmly that you cannot put up with such behaviour indefinitely. You may need to make it a condition of continuing to live in your house that your teen behaves more reasonably, or gets involved in a suitable treatment programme.

Encourage Alternatives

Although you may be feeling helpless, it’s important not to give up on positive solutions. Try to encourage activities and friendships that are non-drug related. It would help your teenager focus if you can put something else into his life that might build his confidence and self-worth.

Don’t Go It Alone

Many parents feel unnecessary shame about their child using drugs, and tend to keep it to themselves. But handling a situation like this can be highly stressful, and you will need all the support you can get. Involve other family members, friends or other parents as your teen may find it harder to dismiss people outside the immediate family group as interfering and over-anxious. Addictions flourish in secrecy, so the more you can flush them out into the light of day, the harder it will be for your teen to keep running from the problem.

Be Prepared to Let Go

If, after you’ve tried everything you can to help, your teenager continues to use drugs, you may decide that your best course of action is to let go of the problem and leave it to her to sort out. However painful it is for you, the only person who can stop taking the drugs is the teenager herself.

The truth is that some teenagers won’t find the motivation to change until they start experiencing the reality of what drugs can do to their lives. For some people the quicker they hit rock bottom, the sooner they will start to sort out their life. By trying to protect your teenager indefinitely from the consequences of her bad choices, you may actually be prolonging her relationship with drugs and even allowing a more severe addiction to take hold. However, if you are facing hard choices like this, make sure you talk to an appropriate professional first.

Is Addiction a Disease?: People Who Are Sick Are Victims; “Choosers” Are Not Victims

is addiction a disease

A man in his late twenties visited a therapist’s office and admitted that for several years in the past he had a drinking problem. That concerned his fiancé who asked him to go see a drug counselor before they got married, just to reassure her. He said that starting with alcohol at thirteen, by the time he was fourteen or fifteen he was also addicted to drugs and tobacco.

“I can’t deny it, Doc,” Brian said, “I’m an alcoholic.” Then with some well-deserved pride in his voice he continued. “But I’ve been sober for more than two years now.”

The therapist shook his head as he asked the young man, “You say you’re an alcoholic even though you stopped drinking two years ago; how come you still call yourself an alcoholic?”

The young man had a look of surprise on his face as he answered the question. “Well, that’s what I’ve been told. ‘Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.’”

Labeling Oneself Will Hurt, Not Help

“Really,” the counselor said with emphasis. “Do you ever hear any ex smokers say ‘Once a smoker, always a smoker?’”

The client chuckled out loud, then said, “No, I haven’t heard anybody say that. I’ve been a smoker, too, you know.”

“Yes, well, you don’t call yourself a smoker anymore, do you?” the counselor asked.

“Uh, no I don’t,” he said.

There Is a Need for a Strong Motivating Factor to Quit Using

After a minute the therapist asked, “How come you quit drinking and stopped taking drugs?”

The young man tipped his head to the side, shrugged slightly and answered, “Well, I came to the point that it wasn’t fun any more. I had a best friend overdose. He died.” Brian paused and looked down. Then he looked up again and said, “I could see it was starting to ruin my life, too. Believe me, that junk caused me so many problems. It was incredible.”

“So, having no more fun caused you to quit; that, and your best friend. Brian, does what you just said sound like you had a disease?”

Brian furrowed his brow and simply asked, “What?”

“Do you think you had a disease?”

Brian tipped his head to the side. “Well, that’s what I’ve learned. Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases.”

It’s a Strange Disease If Choosing to Not Be a Victim Will Bring a Cure

Raising his eyebrows the counselor asked, “What other disease do you know of that all you have to do is decide that you won’t be sick any more and, after some amount of time, it goes away?”

Brian wrinkled his brow and asked, “What? I don’t understand.”

“If you had cancer or diabetes, could you just decide one day not to have it any more and it would go away, eventually ridding you of all its symptoms, just because you didn’t want to have it?”

The young man let out a large puff of air and said, “Uh … no. But what are you getting at, Doc?”

“I’m saying, alcohol and drug addiction is not an illness; nor is smoking. They’re choices. You chose to drink when you were thirteen, and when you were fourteen you chose to use drugs. You also chose to smoke. You did all that until ‘it wasn’t fun anymore,’ to use your words. And because you didn’t like what was happening to you, you decided to quit making those destructive choices for yourself, once and for all.”

Brian nodded, then emphatically said, “Yeah. I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. But it does make sense. I’m not an alcoholic for life, nor a drug addict, nor a smoker.”

It takes substantially more work than this example would imply, but choosing to call oneself a “never-to-be-over-it victim” is to lock oneself into being a scapegoat to a substance or to an addictive behavior pattern. All persons who quit have first found a serious reason to stop—maybe because of a traumatic event in life directly attributable to choices to indulge. Becoming free from addiction begins with acknowledging the truth and taking action.

Even if it were a disease, becoming free from addiction requires one thing; that is, to make different choices. But choosing to call oneself a victim of illness makes the problem worse from a psychological and motivational standpoint. It causes one to think they are a victim and powerless (another word for helpless or worthless). It takes self-confidence to improve one’s situation regarding anything in life that is worthwhile.

Unpopular Reasons for Drug Addiction

drug addiction

The Other Causes for Addiction to Drugs

The biggest recreational users turn to drug addiction by curiosity of pills found around the home.

The media attention on drug addiction attempts to education parents and loved ones of the possible causes for the condition. Ironically, as more information is spread about drug addiction, the familiarity and increased availability of pharmaceuticals has created a rise in drug use. As more people are prescribed drugs for various reasons, it’s more common for children and teens to have access to pharmaceuticals. Drug addiction is sometimes just a simple effect from sheer curiosity.

Curiosity and Drug Addiction

For some teenagers, the start of drug addiction begins with sheer curiosity. If parents have pain or anxiety medications openly available to their teens, the attention given to different pharmaceuticals may lead to experimental drug use. With the amount of attention given to medications like Oxycontin, Vicodin, Ultram, and Xanax, drug addiction may stem from the sensationalism of these prescriptions.

Curiosity is the start for some users, but drug addiction is hard to detect when the family member or friend uses recreationally. Recreational drug use is common for people who are able to control the cravings. It isn’t until the cravings lead to increased doses and continued use that physical and mental drug addiction occurs.

Drug Addiction Decreases Stress

After a hard day at work or a stressful day at school, pharmaceuticals reduce stress. They relax and allow a person to unwind. This type of recreational use only leads to drug addiction if the user is unable to control cravings during the day. Marijuana and some pharmaceuticals are two of the most popular ways to relieve stress. For some users, drug addiction only occurs after anxiety leads to usage during the day. Recreational drug use for these users may never lead to addiction. These users may lead completely normal lives without any signs of drug addiction.

Signs of Drug Addiction

Recreational drug use for many people turns to drug addiction. If a friend or relative disregards important work functions or increases the frequency of doses, he may become physically and mentally dependent on the drug. Reclusiveness, depression, and antisocial behavior are also signs of drug addiction. If severe drug addiction to depressants like Xanax, Oxycontin, heroin, Vicodin, and alcohol are suspected, these drugs can lead to respiratory depression and possible cardiac arrest.

Family members who suspect a loved one of using depressant drugs like opiates and benzodiazepines are encouraged to get the user into treatment. For drug users with a strong desire and determination to recover, stay-at-home detox is possible. Other options are in-patient treatment, outpatient treatment, and psychological services. Results for recovery are determined by the user’s willingness and determination to overcome the drug addiction.