Dealing with Troubled Youth PART 1: “Parenting: Teens and Drugs”
Drug use in the United States is a serious problem among the adolescent population. At some point in your teen’s life, it is likely that your son or daughter may use drugs as a result of peer pressure or maybe even experimentation.
Many people seek my professional opinion on how to tell if their teen is using. First, it is important to understand the reasons why some teens decide to use drugs. Most teens say they use to change the way they feel or to “get high.” Other reasons include low self-esteem; to escape from school, work and family pressures; to feel accepted by peers; out of curiosity; to feel adult-like; because drugs are easily available; and a perception of low risk associated with drugs. Second, it’s good to know the warning signs associated with teens and drug use. Here are some key warning signs for parents: change in friends, poor school performance, increased need for secrecy, lost interest in normal activities, difficulty with attention and concentration, expressions of anger, hostility, or irritability, emotional withdrawal or depression, argumentativeness with you or other family members, unusual mood swings, unhealthy appearance, trouble with the law, irregular sleeping habits, and preoccupation with drug-related graphics and slogans. If you said yes to any of the warning signs mentioned, then there is a high probability that your teen could be using.
So now you’re thinking to yourself, “Now what do I do?” Ignoring the problem or the reality that your teen is using can make the situation worse. But, there are several options for you as parents.
The first option is education. It’s important to educate yourself on teens and the drug situation. A useful resource is the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) website, www.samsha.gov. Here you can read about or get free pamphlets on drug use. The second option is to have the “talk” with your teen. Here it is important to be prepared, remain calm, and state your specific concerns to your teen. Remember the two most important things in this conversation are to convey love to your teen and to offer help. You want to connect with your teen and not push him/her away. The third option is action. Get the help you and your family need by seeking out mental health or substance abuse professionals. Seeking support is nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed about.
Many families in our society are faced with this presenting problem in their family unit. The time to act is now to help your teen reach his/her fullest potential. As child-rearing expert Ron Taffel put it, “Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It's about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.” It’s your responsibility as a parent to help your teen get through this “bumpy ride.”
Other helpful websites: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) at www.nida.gov; The Anti-Drug at www.antidrug.com; Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base at www.adolescent-substance-abuse.com; Teen Drug Abuse at www.teen-drug-abuse.com, and The Partnership at Drugfree.org at www.drugfree.org.
Local resources: Archways, Inc., Chrysalis Center, Memorial Healthcare System, New Direction Institute, Nova Southeastern University, and Spectrum .
Kacee Tannenbaum, LCSW is the President/ Clinical Director of Provide 4, Inc.