Drug abuse has for a long been a problem among teenagers with peer pressure as the key factor driving it. Despite being well documented, parents and caregivers tend to ignore the apparent symptoms of drug abuse in the growing children. The early instances of drug abuse evoke far greater health consequences in this age group than in any other group.
One of the reasons behind the increase in the severity of repercussions of drug abuse is that during adolescence both body and mind are still in the process of development. Apart from the fact that drugs can alter brain chemistry and structure, illicit drug use among teenagers can increase vulnerability to motor crashes and instigate risky sexual behavior. Additionally, drug abuse increases suicidal tendencies, assaults, symptoms of mental health conditions and dropout rate at schools.
Illicit drug use also entails legal and social consequences, such as increase in incidents of violence, criminal activities and neglect, as well as a higher likelihood of abusing drugs in later life. In addition, pregnant teenage girls who continue engaging in drugs are at risk of harming the fetus and themselves in many ways.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence
Nurturing and caring for a teenager is no easy task. The bumpy journey of growth that includes a number of transitional phases, ranging from hitting puberty to adolescence, yearning for dependence to realizing independence, “I love you” to “I hate you,” to confronting life without a safety net to making sense of it all, can mislead parents, guardians and caregivers, especially when their children are on drugs.
Even in the absence of any evidence, it is important that parents who feel that something is wrong with their children trust their hunch and take significant remedial actions, such as talking to their children or seeking professional help.
One of the most practical tools to address the problem of drug abuse among teenagers is communication. Usually, drug-using teenagers develop traits that assist them in concealing their growing addiction-related practices.
They also spend their time incommunicado. When a teenager displays odd behavioral patterns, such as not being themselves after a social event, being vague about the details of the movie watched, getting home beyond curfew, avoiding interaction or getting close to their parents, it is best to investigate to safeguard their health and life.
Some of the below-mentioned warning signs specified by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) can assist parents in keeping a check on their adolescent children:
- A change in peer group
- Carelessness with grooming
- Poor academic performance
- Increased absenteeism
- Loss of interest in favorite activities
- Changes in eating or sleeping habits
- Deteriorating relationships with family members and friends
Although the 2016 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey of drug use among American teenagers suggests decline in the past year use of illicit drugs, except marijuana, alcohol and drug use amidst teenagers is a major public concern. In addition, there is substantial evidence that drug use in early years increases the likelihood of a teenager developing substance use disorder and the symptoms of mental health conditions in their adulthood. However, early intervention is known to reduce and treat these conditions more successfully compared to those who let the abuse linger or get treated late.
Pull the plug on drugs
The earliest warning signs of drug abuse among teenagers are changes in their behavior and mannerism. Usually, addressing a teenager’s drug abuse habits can be an unpleasant ordeal, which is at times riddled with extreme opposition from the patient.
Therefore, it is important that parents communicate with their adolescent children about the life-threatening consequences of drug abuse. They should also discuss about the ways that can assist in overcoming the challenge of drug abuse. They can guide their children in the right direction through their love and care.