Being a youth in today’s world is challenging. Having the world at your fingertips due to technology and experiencing highly competitive college entrance requirements puts a great deal of pressure on youth. In addition, it is during this time that hormonal fluctuations, peer pressure and the desire to gain independence are at their greatest. Regrettably, youth are frequently unaware of the risks for addiction that are readily available to them. To understand more about youth and addiction, you may want to get a firm understanding of the signs of addiction, the causes and risks of addiction and what teens think.
Signs of Youth Addiction
The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is an organization focused on helping kids and their parents learn more about the risks of addiction and ways to avoid it. In their post, Is Your Teen Using? Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse, they provide valuable information.
Often it is confusing to determine whether a teen is abusing drugs or alcohol because the symptoms can be chalked up to typical adolescent behavior or symptoms of mental health issues. However, experts suggest that parents look for symptoms including the following:
- Lack of caring for appearance; poor hygiene
- Track marks on arms or legs; burns or soot on fingers or lips
- Clenching teeth
- Smell of smoke or other unusual smells on breath or on clothes; chewing gum or mints to cover up breath
- Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce eye reddening, nasal irritation or bad breath
- Going out every night; frequently breaks curfew
- Cash flow problems
- Reckless driving, car accidents or unexplained dents in the car
- Locked doors; secretive phone calls
- Change in relationships with family members or friends
- Mood changes or emotional instability
- Loud, obnoxious behavior; laughing at nothing
- Unusually clumsy, stumbling, lack of coordination, poor balance
- Sullen, withdrawn, depressed; silent, uncommunicative
- Hostility, anger, uncooperative behavior; deceitful or secretive
- Lethargic movement; unable to speak intelligibly, slurred speech or rapid-fire speech
- Inability to focus; hyperactivity
- Loss of interest in extracurricular activities, hobbies or sports
- Failure to fulfill responsibilities at school or work
- Frequent sickness
- Sores, spots around mouth; skin abrasions/bruises
- Queasy, nauseous; vomiting
- Wetting lips or excessive thirst
- Sudden or dramatic weight loss or gain
- Accidents or injuries
- Disappearance of prescription of over-the-counter pills
- Missing alcohol or cigarettes
- Disappearance of money or valuables
While this list appears to be quite extensive, it is important for parents to be vigilant. If your child is demonstrating several of these symptoms, it is appropriate to discuss your suspicions with them and encourage an open dialogue.
Reasons for Youth Addiction
Many parents do not want to accept that their children are experimenting with or abusing drugs or alcohol. To further clarify your suspicions, it might be helpful to look at the reasons teens try alcohol and drugs as explained in the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids post, Top 8 Reasons why Teens Try Alcohol and Drugs including the following:
- Other People – Observing others, engaging in the social scene and being pressured by peers leads teens to believe these are normal behaviors.
- Media – With the prevalence of drugs and alcohol in movies, teens are led to believe that engaging in these activities is ok.
- Escape and self-medication – Because drugs can provide euphoric effects, they often make teens who are struggling with issues feel better.
- Boredom – Drugs and alcohol can fill an internal void and can also facilitate interactions with others.
- Rebellion – Seeking their independence from their parents is a common teen behavior; however, some teens use drugs and alcohol during this process.
- Instant gratification – Many teens may turn to drug use because they see it as a short-term shortcut to happiness.
- Lack of confidence – Overcoming being shy is often facilitated when a teen is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Misinformation – If you educate your teen about drug use and provide the real facts, they will be less inclined to believe their friends.
An interesting aspect of understanding the reasons that teens try drugs or alcohol is that you, as an involved parent, have a great deal of latitude in offsetting these reasons.
What Teens Think
In the post, 11 Facts About Teens And Drug Use, DoSomething.org cites statistics that represent how teens think about drugs including the following:
- Marijuana – In 2013, more high school seniors regularly used marijuana than cigarettes and 60 percent of seniors didn’t see regular marijuana use as harmful. 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke pot daily and 1/3 of teenagers who live in states with medical marijuana laws get their pot from other people’s prescriptions. By the 8th grade, 16.5 percent have used marijuana.
- Prescription drugs – Adderall use has increased among high school seniors from 5.4 percent in 2009 to 7.5 percent this year. 60 percent of teens who abuse prescription drugs get them free from friends and relatives. More teens die from prescription drugs than heroin and cocaine combined.
An encouraging fact provided is that teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don’t.
Get Help to Learn About Youth and Addiction
An involved parent can exert influence over their teen when it comes to addiction, but you may not know where to start. Please call our toll-free helpline today. Our admissions coordinators are available 24 hours a day to answer any questions you might have and provide you with resources that can help.