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Teen Drug Abuse: A Parent’s Guide

Movies, video games, television shows, and popular music, all are examples of avenues through which teens are inundated with glamorized images of drug and illegal substance use. According to a recent content analysis, alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs are present in 70% of prime time network dramatic programs, 38 out of 40 top-grossing movies, and half of all music videos. This is the age of acceptance and along with that comes a parade of unsolicited images and the use of illegal substances is one of the more damaging images presented.  High exposure to these images can have the effect of normalizing these behaviors in the developing mind of a teen, leaving them vulnerable to damaging and addictive behaviors. This blog will provide parents with information regarding drug abuse motivation, access points, and helpful tips on how to deal with a teen abusing drugs.

What makes teens want to do drugs?

Teenagers are going through a lot during their adolescent years. Just like in our article on Grief and Teen Substance Abuse, we want to make clear that there are many causes or precipitating events that can contribute to teen drug abuse. Teens are managing many emotions and hormones along with the pressure to fit in from their peers. Here, however, are the top five causes of drug abuse among teens and youth:

  • Stress
  • Social acceptance
  • Low self esteem
  • Self-medication
  • Easy access

These five causes can also be warning signs of drug abuse in teenagers and youth.

How does a teen access drugs?

Drugs are more available to teenagers and youth than ever. Media can be a gateway to showing teens how to successfully abuse drugs. A teen abusing drugs can get very creative in finding ways to fuel their addiction. Parents of teens who abuse drugs need to keeps an eye on the following locations:

  • Medicine cabinets
  • Friends houses
  • Parties
  • At school
  • Online

Unfortunately, parents cannot restrict school and all access to friends, but half the battle is staying involved. A few things a parent can do is: keep up-to-date with a teenager’s online activity, keeping count of the number of pills in medicine bottles, and restricting the amount and types of parties a teen or youth attends. Verifying that reliable adult supervision is present at any youth gathering is also important.

Common household drug use and where it may be hiding?

Teens can be very innovative when they are using or selling drugs. Parents may not know the amount of household items that can be used in teen drug abuse.

  • Computer cleaning products containing aerosols
  • Cough syrup
  • Hand sanitizer or mouthwash
  • Vanilla extract or nutmeg
  • Bath salts

If you find your teen is abusing household substances you may want to run a thorough check through your house to ensure that all the drug paraphernalia is removed from the home. There are many common places a parent may not think look when conducting a search.

  • Hollowed out books
  • The battery box of a stereo system
  • Between mattresses
  • Opaque water bottles or containers
  • Piggy banks or make-up cases

There is never a moment you should give up on a teen or youth if they are abusing drugs or other substances that can alter their state of mind. A key reminder is to always stay up-to-date on teen trends and watch for warning signs.

What can a parent do?

There are several preventative steps that parents can take to decrease youth or teen vulnerability to alcohol or drug abuse.

  • Educate your youth or teen about the reality of and negative effects of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Maintain open lines of communication, let them know they can call if they find themselves in compromising situations.
  • Provide supervision or verify that they are where they say they are when they are out with friends.
  • Reinforce their personal value and encourage positive peer relationships.
  • Provide outlets for spiritual counsel or professional counseling if they experience depression, trauma, or the death of a loved one.

Despite many parents’ best efforts, they may find themselves faced with the reality of a teen drug abuse problem.  Parents can fall into despair when faced with this struggle. At Ozark Teen Challenge, we are equipped to help troubled teens with drug addictions and other life controlling issues that a teen may face. Our 5 Phase System can take a troubled teenager or youth and help them become the person you know them to be. Don’t hesitate to call or ask questions about our programs.

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