Teen Drug Abuse

Illicit drug use is beginning to make a comeback among American young people, say researchers at the University of Michigan who have studied the topic. They note a sharp rise in marijuana use and significant increases in the number of teenagers using LSD, stimulants, and inhalants. One of the researchers also notes that the drug problem goes across race, ethnicity, gender, and geographical region. It's obvious that no one—parent or teenager—can afford to ignore this problem.

If your teen is using drugs, common signs to watch for include:

  • Marked changed in behavior or friends
  • Noticeable lack of interest in activities that used to provide pleasure, interest, or fun
  • Sleeping too little (or too much)
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Combativeness or emotional distancing from family or friends
  • Frequent sickness or signs of ill health such as nausea, headaches, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, runny nose, and hangovers
  • Problems at school
  • Items of value missing around the house, indicating that your teen may be selling or pawning them to buy drugs

While marijuana is the most commonly used drug, some teens have also gotten into hallucinogens like PCP, LSD, cocaine, crack, and inhalants. In addition, Ritalin, commonly prescribed for Attention Deficit Disorder, has now made its way into the drug scene where kids use it to excess to get high.

The Legacy of Woodstock: “What Did You Do, Dad?”

“But Dad, you grew up in the '60s and went to Woodstock. Didn't everybody do drugs then?”

Many parents today are being confronted with questions about their past. Even if you did try or use drugs while growing up, it is still possible to convey an anti-drug message to your teen.

If you have fond memories of those days and the life you led, be certain not to talk too fondly of it or glamorize it.

If you're uncomfortable “telling all,” you could answer most questions your teen poses completely by talking about your friends and providing your current opinion. “Back then a lot of people used pot, and we knew very little about it. This was before the very serious dangers of smoking were well known, and marijuana was generally viewed as just another form of tobacco.”

Remember, too, that there is often a very big difference between experimenting with something once or twice and using it regularly, and you could tell this to your teen. “Yes, I tried pot a couple of times because my friends were doing it, but I stopped because I decided it wasn't a good thing to do.”

Are you giving your teen permission to try drugs because you did? No. You might follow up with a comment that stresses belief in your child: “Now that we know what we do about each of these substances, I don't want you trying them. You are too valuable, and drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes don't solve anything—they don't make you popular, they won't help you grow up, and they certainly don't help your body or mind. You have too much to lose to mess around with that stuff.”


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Parenting a Teenager © 1996 by Kate Kelly. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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