Drug use continues to be a major issue among pre-teens and adolescents. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports 36 percent of all 12th-graders smoked marijuana last year, while 15 percent illegally abused prescription drugs. As if that weren’t bad enough, the data shows children as young as 10 years old are experimenting with alcohol and another 5,000 young adults under the age of 21 die from alcohol-related injuries every year.
Be alert and recognize early warning signs of addiction: There are often noticeable changes in the behavior, personality or physical appearance of adolescents in the early stages of addiction. Their grades might slip or they may start missing school without reason. Teenagers may also start to lose interest in activities they once loved. Some of the physical warning signs include sleeping far too much or too little, slurring or a generally disheveled appearance.
Observe their friends: Because friendships are such an important part of an adolescent's life, a sudden and radical shift in who they hang out with could very well be a sign of drug abuse. If the new friends are people you have never met, it's probably a good idea to keep an eye on your teen's behaviors and try to determine whether or not these "friends" serve as a bad influence.
Search their rooms: While investigating your child’s room should be avoided if possible, it could be a fairly easy way to turn up drugs or drug paraphernalia if you suspect an addiction. Kids often hide drug items in common items such as a computer mouse or aspirin bottle, but may also just store them in their dressers or drawers.
Keep track of missing items: If random items seem to start disappearing from your house, make a list of them and see if a connection can be made to drug use. For example, losing spoons or running out of aluminum foil could indicate a heroin addiction.
Consult with outside resources: If you suspect your child is using drugs, talk with their teacher or pediatrician. You could also take them to an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting to let them hear people’s stories of recovery. By the time an addiction has taken hold, forms of punishment like grounding simply won’t work.
Admit them to a rehab facility: If your child is under the age of18, you can send them into an inpatient rehab facility against their will. Although some argue that treatment is only effective if they are willing to cooperate, others believe that simply getting them in the door provides a much greater chance at recovery.
Talk openly with them: Sometimes the easiest way to stop an addiction is through an honest conversation. Let them know you’ve noticed changes in their behavior and demeanor and are genuinely concerned, but also take a firm stance and make it clear you won’t tolerate drug use. If your child feels like they won’t be punished for being honest, they will likely explain their recent changes to you and perhaps even express an urge to kick their habit or seek help.
Learn more about the signs that indicate drug abuse and addiction.
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