Substance abuse by teenagers is a much bigger problem in the U.S. than most parents will ever realize, or that any one study is likely able to express. However, it’s safe to say that teen drug abuse has reached epidemic levels, and that substance abuse by teenagers is one of the nation’s top health problems.
Although teenage substance abuse statistics do shed some light on the situation, teenage substance abuse statistics can be misleading, because teens using drugs are not lining up to take part in surveys, and may not be totally honest when they do. Many parents do not even realize that their teenager has a substance abuse problem until the problem has had a devastating impact.
According to Medical News Today, tobacco is the main gateway drug for teens. Prior to abusing more serious drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, and heroin, most teens begin by smoking cigarettes.
Unfortunately for parents and other concerned adults, most high school students have access to a variety of drugs. Though we often think of drug abuse as plaguing inner-city schools, the truth is that in well-to-do communities where teens have money, drugs may be even more readily available.
Teen peer groups are secret, tight knit societies that are capable of hiding unacceptable behaviors from parents, teachers, and other authority figures. Often it’s not until a disaster occurs – such as when an addicted teenager does something over the top, like overdosing, that the dangerous behaviors are revealed.
So what can parents do to combat the epidemic of drug use among teenagers? First and foremost parents need to be actively involved in their children’s life. Next parents need to be aware of the symptoms of substance abuse and remain vigilant regarding their teenagers’ behaviors.
Some of the symptoms of substance abuse by teenagers could include:
- Grades suddenly start falling off sharply
- Cutting school regularly
- Regularly complaining about being too tired to go to school
- Regularly missing school due to sickness
- Giving up loved activities such as sports, music, etc.
- Dramatic appearance changes both physically and in the clothes they wear
- A sudden new group of friends that are not introduce to the parents
- Personal property or money is stolen or disappears without explanation
- Lock themselves in their room and take excessive amounts of time to answer a knock on the door
- Becomes very hostile including aggressive outburst that don’t make sense
- Doesn’t care about anything
- Can’t seem to remember anything very forgetful
- Dramatic changes in sleeping habits
- Very depressed at times which is highly related to coming down
- Very anxious
- Something about the teen just doesn’t seem like it’s right
Help for teens starts at home. Parents need to know what their child is up to. They need to understand their normal patterns and normal habits. They need to educate their children about drugs, and they need to be willing to accept it if they do notice symptoms, and act on it.
Teens using drugs are not going to like parents meddling in their business, but if it means saving their lives and helping them grow up, then getting past the resistance and the complaining are small prices to pay.