As a parent, your child is exposed to a far more complex world than the one you grew up in. You can’t exactly use your own experiences and values to guide your child through the bewildering years of adolescence. It’s like trying to find your way around what once familiar territory using an antiquated map. There are new streets, homes, stores, parks, sidewalks, and cross-roads in your old neighborhood. In fact, it’s almost unrecognizable.
It’s scary to think about how childhood is now so different. It’s even scarier to overhear other parents with troubled teenagers ask questions about drug abuse.
In a strange new world, where you only have a surface understanding of what it must be like to be a teenager today, how do you navigate the uncharted waters of today’s adolescents and steer your child to a fulfilling life?
Here is a short list of frequently asked questions young adults might have through exposure to drugs from their peer group:
- 1. What effects do drugs have on someone?
- 2. How many people a year die from drugs?
- 3. How can you tell if your teen is on drugs?
- 4. Is it easier for a teenager to get addicted to drugs than an adult?
- 5. How do drugs affect relationships?
The most important thing you can begin to do is become more observant. It’s hard to correct a problem if you don’t even notice it. By the time it’s too obvious to miss, it may be too late to take meaningful action.
When signs of trouble show up in your child’s life, they are subtle. You may only be aware that things are not going well.
Here are some things to suggest things are unraveling for your child:
- · Their grades have slipped.
- · They are often in a bad mood, usually irritated or depressed.
- · They don’t talk to their old friends much.
- · They don’t show up for practice for a game they used to love.
- · They have either gained or lost a noticeable amount of weight.
Some parents may want to ask even more specific questions. If you suspect your teen is using a hard drug, there are certain rapid behavior changes that are not difficult to notice. Asking how long does a cocaine high last, for example, may help you understand important details about how the drug interacts with someone’s metabolism.
Defining what’s wrong is tricky. Knowing what to do is even harder. Often these behavioral changes can be dismissed as something that happens when a teenager experiences hormonal changes, academic pressure, and peer influence.
Unfortunately, these are also signs of substance abuse. It’s important for you to understand more about this possible risk to prevent things from escalating out of control.
Identifying Addictive Behavior
Here are 2 questions to consider either confirming or ruling out the hypothesis that your child’s behavior is due to an addiction.
Could their change in behavior be due to a physical and psychological addiction to a substance?
A physical addiction is when a person’s body becomes dependent on a substance. This addiction can cover a wide gamut of substances. It can include well-known substances like cigarettes, pot, alcohol, or hard drugs. It can also include unusual substances like smelling glue or taking prescription drugs for their side-effects.
An addiction is not only an uncontrollable craving for something but also an increasing tolerance for it. As tolerance increases, they need to take more of the substance to experience the same high.
Often a physical addiction also leads to a psychological addiction. Now there is such a strong desire to have a particular substance that a person desperate tries to meet their needs, often ignoring their own values or rationality. They may, for instance, lie, cheat, manipulate, or even steal to get their needs met.
When a physical addiction becomes a psychological addiction, the search for pleasure, relief, fun, or getting high are no longer important. The person feels that they have no choice. They need the substance even if it is no longer satisfying.
Addictions are hard to break. Often will power or the use of firm logic or the threat of consequences is not enough to change. This is not only because of strong cravings, but also because of withdrawal symptoms, which can range from feeling depressed to shaking, nausea, and upset stomachs.
Are there enough signs to suggest an addiction?
One or two signs of unusual behavior does not always indicate an addiction. For instance, if your formerly cheerful child is now frequently depressed, it’s not necessarily a sign of addiction. However, if your child also has a number of signs, then it could indicate an addiction.
Here are some common signs of addiction:
- · Withdrawal from family or friends.
- · Keeping secrets, being deliberately vague when asked direct questions.
- · Loss of interest in activities that they used to love.
- · Academic problems, especially doing poorly in subjects that they used to excel in.
- · Changes in friendships, preferring the company of “the wrong crowd.”
- · Mood swings, plunging from manic to depressed over the smallest setbacks.
- · Sleeping too little or too much.
- · Eating too little or too much.
- · Shaking for no discernible reason.
- · Getting sick often when they used to be healthy.
Asking for Help
If you suspect that your child has an addiction, you should ask for professional help. It’s highly unlikely that simply talking it over with your child or using punitive measures will make much of a difference.
Professionals can intervene in an effective way because they have the knowledge, skills, and resources to do what you as a parent may not be able to do to turn things around for your child.
The biggest mistake you can make is dismissing the possibility that your child might be addicted to something. Since the signs are subtle enough to attribute to other causes, it’s only too easy to go into denial to avoid the unpleasant consequences of handling the issue.