This section is designed to educate parents, teachers and concerned community members about teen drug use and ways to prevent it.
It's important to begin the dialogue early and make drug abuse an open and non-judgmental topic of conversation in the household. When kids feel comfortable discussing drug uses and consequences with you, they're more likely to come to you with questions and concerns if they face opportunities to engage in drug use later. Kids should be taught the dangers of drug abuse and addiction, but not be made to feel ashamed for curiosity about drugs, which may lead to them not discussing their questions.
Understanding the medical risks of drug abuse as well as the signs to look out for can help you remain vigilant in helping your child stay away from drugs and alcohol. As your child gets older, he or she is likely to enter situations in which drugs are available. The best thing you can do to prepare your child to make responsible decisions is to create an open dialogue early and often about drug use.
The resources below were designed to help educate parents on teen drug use and abuse and help parents and gaurdians prevent drug use and abuse in their children.
RISK FACTORS FOR DRUG ABUSE:
* Academic failure or lack of academic motivation
* Alienation from peers or family
* Anti-social behavior, including early aggressive behavior
* Early first use of drugs
* Drug availability in the community
* Improper parenting - having parents who are distant, uninvolved with their children, poor monitors of their children's activities or who have not established or enforced clear rules with their children
* Long work hours
* Loss of control/external loss of control - feeling that their lives are beyond their control
* Low socioeconomic status
* Parent or sibling alcohol/drug use
* Parental divorce, remarriage or other homelife transitions
* Sensation-seeking behavior
There are also biological factors that can increase an individual's likelihood of drug abuse. While these circumstances are impossible to change, awareness of their presence can help parents and educators target at-risk young people for selective intervention.
BIOLOGICAL FACTORS INCLUDE:
* Genetic predisposition toward addictive behavior
* Mental illness (specifically, those with ADHD, depression or anxiety, as well as other mental illnesses)
* How the body metabolizes the substance (those with a higher natural tolerance may ingest more to achieve the drug's effects, thus raising their likelihood of addiction)
* Gender - men are twice as likely to have drug abuse problems
When parents think of their children and drug use, they often imagine malicious drug dealers entering their local schools or neighborhoods, but often, children and teens are using around-the-house items to get high.
Discuss with your child the dangers of using cleaning or other household products for anything other than their intended use. For parents of preteens especially, monitoring the amounts of and access to potentially mis-useable substances in your home can help prevent drug abuse from going unnoticed.
Below is a list of around-the-house items that can and have been used to get high; however, it's not an extensive list:
* Prescription drugs
* Cough syrups or decongestants
* Substances that come in spray bottles, such as vegetable spray, computer cleaning products and spray paint
* Gases such as propane, chloroform and whipped cream bottles
* Nitrates - substances often used in cleaners or room air fresheners
* Volatile solvents, such as permanent markers, paint thinners, glue, gasoline, degreasers
* Nutmeg (yes, the seasoning)
As a young adult, you're in the biggest risk group for developing a life-long relationship with drugs and alcohol. Studies show that most adults who are addicted to drugs and alcohol began their use as teenagers. While many view young adulthood as a time for "experimenting," it's also a time when you're setting the patterns for the rest of your life.
When making decisions about drugs and alcohol use, it's important to understand the short-term and long-term consequences of your decision. Knowing the effects of drugs on the brain and the potential social and legal risks of drug use will enable you to make an informed choice when the time comes. While parents, teachers, friends and other community members may influence your decision to use drugs and alcohol, there will be a time when the choice is yours alone, and it's up to you to be prepared for that moment.
The resources below were created to help you make an educated choice when the time comes:
KNOW THE SIGNS!
The best way to prevent an abuse issue from becoming more serious is to be vigilant about recognizing the signs and symptoms of abuse.
Recognizing the signs of drug abuse in yourself:
* Feeling like you need to regularly use the drug
* Trying, and failing, to stop using the drug
* Spending money you can't afford on the drug, or finding other ways to procure the drug that against your morals or values
* Focusing on the drug more than your close relationships, work/school or hobbies
* Feeling that you need the drug to deal with problems
* Feeling that you need the drug in order to have fun
* Driving under influence of the drug
* Neglecting your responsibilities to focus on procuring or taking the drug
* Taking the drug in order to prevent symptoms of withdrawal
* Keeping your drug use secret from family/friends
Recognizing the signs of drug abuse in a child, student or friend:
* Deteriorating physical health or appearance
- Bloodshot eyes
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Sudden weight gain or weight loss
- Tremors, slurred speech or poor coordination
* Problems at school or work, including poor attendance or a drop in grades
* Drastic changes in behavior
- Mood swings or irrational outbursts
- A sudden development of secretive behavior
- Lethargy or an "I don't care" attitude
* Sudden need for money, including stealing money from friends or family members
* Sudden change in friends
* Drug-specific symptoms
If you think a friend may be abusing or addicted to drugs, one of the best first steps is to be open and listen without judgment. People dealing with addiction often experience a great deal of shame. Many others take drugs in order to escape from feelings of anxiety and depression, and your friend may avoid situations in which he or she fears being scolded or made to feel worse.
Try educating your friend on the effects drugs have on his or her brain. Understanding the physical consequences and health risks of taking drugs may help your friend decide against continuing.
If they continue to use drugs, show that you're available and willing to listen, without judgment. Just being there for your friend can be a great help.
It's also important to understand the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Both are dangerous, life-risking behaviors. However, while drug abuse is still, for the most part, a conscious choice, drug addiction means that the abuse has spiraled into a disease, making it very difficult for the user to control their desires for drugs. That doesn't mean all is lost! But it does mean that your friend will probably need more than sheer willpower to stop using drugs.
If you think your friend has reached a point where he or she needs help overcoming an addiction, talk to him or her about their treatment options. Parents, teachers and school counselors have access to resources that can help your friend.
While it's better to convince him or her to talk to an adult on their own, if you feel your friend's life or future may be in danger, it may be time to tell a parent, teacher or counselor about the problem, with or without your friend's consent.
If you're not sure whom to talk to, or where to turn, call 1-800-662-HELP for information about drug treatment programs and advice on your specific situation. If your friend is at risk of ending his or her life, you can call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK for immediate support.
Showing that you care about your friend, even if he or she isn't ready to talk about their drug problem, is the best way to show support in the long run. Teens who begin using drugs and alcohol often join social groups where drug use is common. Having a caring, non-judgmental friend outside of that group is a great resource for a teen in need, if he or she recognizes their problem has gone too far.
If you think you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, you've already taken the first step towards healing. It can be very difficult to admit a dependency on drugs.
If you feel that drugs are affecting your schoolwork, friendships, or hobbies, even when you're sober. If you feel like it's hard to get through a day or week without using drugs. Or if you just don't feel like "you" anymore, it's very possible that you're dealing with a drug addiction.
You can use this site to learn more about the physical effects of drug use. Understanding how drugs affect your mind and body and why they cause addiction will give you a better understanding of what's going on inside when you use drugs.
Remember, drug addiction is a disease, just like cancer, but there are ways to get better. The first step is deciding that you need help and asking for it. Find an adult you trust - a parent, a teacher, a coach or a counselor and tell them what you're dealing with. It's not about getting in trouble; it could be about your life.
If you're not sure whom to talk to, call 1-800-662-HELP for information about drug treatment programs and advice on your specific situation. If you're having thoughts about ending your life, you can call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK for immediate support.
Remember, you've already made the big first step! Now, it's time to be good to yourself and get the help you need.
In the late 1990's, the formerly popular DARE program was not able to prove its effectiveness in preventing drug use among children and teenagers, but this particular failure does not indicate that educators have no influence over their students when it comes to preventing drug use.
More recent research has shown that, instead of scare tactics, students react positively to honest and open discussions with teachers and other adults. While it's important to keep your authority and professionalism, forming close relationships with students can provide them with an additional adult in their life whom they can talk to about drug issues without feeling judged or scolded.
Anti-drug messages can be worked into lesson plans across subject areas as well:
* Science classes can explore the effects of drugs on the brain and body.
* Language classes can make anti-drug pamphlets for younger kids and teens.
* Health classes can focus on the importance of keeping a strong body and mind.
* Social Studies classes can explore the uses of drugs in different times and cultures and their effects on history (for example: The Opium Wars, or the prevalence of marijuana and heroin use among American soldiers in Vietnam).
AUDIO & VISUAL AIDS FOR DRUG USE PREVENTION
Below is a list of free, online drug education resources teachers can use and integrate into lesson plans.
- "The Doubles" episode series was created specifically for older elementary and middle school students to learn about drugs and alcohol use while following the adventures of a group of young bandmates.
- The "Above the Influence" site contains inspirational quotes, drug-fact quizzes and social media resources to get older kids and teens involved in the anti-drug movement.
- The "Sara Bellum" blog was created to reach and educate teens about the effects of drug use.
- "Mind Over Matter" lesson plans, created by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, explain the effects of specific drugs, such as opiates, hallucinogens, and cocaine.