No matter how active a parent you are in speaking to your children about the dangers of drugs, the likelihood that they will be exposed to these substances while in high school is quite high. Most people first try substances such as alcohol or drugs when they are in school, mainly due to peer pressure. Many teenagers only take drugs because they worry that their friends will laugh at them or leave them out if they do not. They often tell themselves that they will do it ‘just once’, but with constant peer pressure, it can become a regular occurrence. Unfortunately, teen drug abuse can lead to devastating addictions that threaten to destroy the lives of those affected.
While peer pressure is probably the most common reason for teen drug abuse, it is certainly not the only one. Curiosity is another big reason teenagers try drugs for the first time. They may have heard stories about the fun others they know have had while ‘high’, and they want to try it for themselves to see what all the fuss is about.
Others suffer from low self-esteem and confidence issues and find that drugs can help them to interact with others. Some are trying to use drugs to escape the pain of their life; it could be that they have suffered a traumatic experience in the past, such as some form of abuse or the death of a loved one. Many teenagers self-medicate with drugs in order to help them feel better.
Teen drug abuse can lead to addiction, which can have a devastating impact on the individual and his/her loved ones. Teenagers do not expect to develop a drug addiction when they first start taking drugs. The good news is that most teens that experiment with drugs will never develop a problem. The bad news is that addiction is an illness that does become a reality for some of them.
There are certain risk factors for addiction that make it more likely for one person to develop a problem than another. However, it is important to point out that not everyone with the risk factors will become an addict. It is also important to note that those with no risk factors can still develop an addiction.
Family history of addiction raises the risk of addiction for teenagers. Those who have a parent with a drug problem are more likely to become an addict themselves in later life, for example. Researchers believe that genetics plays a role, but there is also the possibility that early exposure to drugs and a relaxed attitude to drug taking can increase the risk.
The environment in which a young person grows up also has an impact on their risk of addiction. Friends, family life, quality of life, stress, socio-economic status and peer pressure can all increase the risk.
Addiction risk also increases with traumatic experiences such as the death of a loved one, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, being bullied, being neglected, or living with a mentally ill parent. The earlier a person starts experimenting with drugs, the greater the chance that addiction will become a reality for that person in later life. We also need to point out that the majority of drug addicts first started taking drugs before the age of twenty-one.
Abuse of drugs has harmful consequences for anyone, but particularly for teenagers. This is mainly due to the fact that the brains of teens are still developing, and so they could be risking long-term damage if they continue to abuse drugs.
Drug abuse leads to a number of physical and mental health problems. The type of issues and the severity will depend on the drug being abused. Problems can include liver disease, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and psychosis.
As well as the many health concerns associated with teen drug abuse, other consequences can have an adverse impact on the individual. Teenage drug abusers are more likely to engage in risky behaviour. This can include driving under the influence or having unprotected sex. Teenagers often place themselves in dangerous situations when intoxicated and are unable to make good judgements, leading to disastrous consequences.
Those who continue to abuse drugs are in danger of developing a dependence, which can result in problems with family members and poor performance at school or work. If a drug dependence is left untreated, it will progress to the point where it consumes every waking thought. Those who become affected by addiction may lose everything they have, and many will end up behind bars, affecting their future prospects even if they do manage to get clean in the future.
It can be hard to spot the early signs of teen drug abuse because many of these signs are similar to normal teenage behaviour. Just because a teenager spends time alone in his or her room does not mean that drugs are involved. Nevertheless, if you notice that your teen has suddenly become withdrawn and is spending time away from the rest of the family, having previously spent a lot of time with everyone, you should be alert for other signs.
Physical signs of drug abuse can include extreme mood swings, dilated pupils or bloodshot eyes, poor hygiene, loss of appetite, and trouble sleeping. Your teenage son or daughter may also begin acting differently to normal, and you may notice a drop in school performance or a sudden secretiveness or guarding of possessions.
If you do suspect your teenager is abusing drugs, it is best to broach the subject as soon as possible. No matter how angry or defensive your child becomes, you must press the issue until your suspicions are confirmed or you are satisfied with your child’s explanation for the change in behaviour.
Teen drug abuse can quickly become a teen addiction if left untreated. It is important to take action as soon as possible in order to give your child the best chance of a long and healthy future. There are a number of organisations specialising in treating teenage drug problems, and we can help you to access them. Call Recovery.org.uk today for more information on teen drug abuse.