By John Horton, Multimedia Specialist
You may know, being a teenager has its perks: no real responsibility, no big bills to pay, and no one blames you when you act childish. On the other side of that coin (so to speak), there’s high school drama, planning out your college future, and your parents telling you what to do. Okay, so maybe it’s not that bad now that I look back, but at the time it seems like a prison. It could get to you like a compactor, pressing down on you from all around. So it’s no wonder why teens need to blow off a little steam every now and then, but how they do it is a different story.
Children who learn about the risks of drugs are up to 50% less likely to use them. If they turn to drugs, it could have a greater risk of developing an addiction than when they are older. Although, parents and guardians do need to know the difference between drug abuse and addiction because many of the teens that experiment with drugs don’t get addicted. It may be just a bad case of “the wrong place at the wrong time.” You know, like if they get a “contact high”? That usually happens whenever you are around someone who is smoking Marijuana.
There are times when you can tell the difference between someone actually doing drugs and when just coming into contact with it. If you pay close attention, you may see the signs that could reveal if your teen is using drugs. More often than not, teens generally take drugs to feel better, to do better, just out of curiosity, or because others are doing it. So if they are getting hooked, here are some common signs:
- Bad Grades (lack of focus in the classroom and homework)
- Bloodshot eyes
- Laughing for no reason
- Loss of interest in activities
- Poor hygiene or other health issues (nausea, vomiting, flushed skin, or dizziness)
- Diminished personal appearance
- Avoiding eye contact
- Frequent hunger (munchies)
- Smell of smoke on breath or clothes (not necessarily nicotine)
- Secretive behavior
- Unusual constant tiredness
- Repeatedly Missing curfew
- Things disappearing or unusual items show up in their room (straws, burnt spoons, aluminum foil, or medicine bottles)
It can be difficult to tell actual drug usage, but parents can take the aggressive stance in talking with their teenage child to find out. If the child has the parents trust, then that relationship is perfect for finding out the truth from the child. If the relationship is rocky, then the parent might have a hard time determining for sure if drugs are being abused, unless the signs mentioned above are detected.
It’s very important that parents keep the lines of communications open with their children for when things like this should occur. Unfortunately, not many parents are doing that these days with everything going on in their lives. Parents end up being unaware of the behavior or they underestimate the risks. In another study, it showed that 28% of parents have taken at least one prescription drug without having a prescription for it themselves. This sets a very dangerous example for their children, along with anyone else, who look up to the parents.
Once it has been determined a teenager has been taking drugs, it then turns to which drug was being abused. That is when you figure out or have the child admit to which drugs have been induced into their body. Even if it’s not illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, or ecstasy, prescription pills can’t be ignored because many young abusers are using prescribed medication (not necessarily theirs) to get high.
Statistically speaking, it has become an issue with teenagers. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) claims that 2,100 teenagers use a prescription drug for non-medical use for the first time each and every day, not knowing the many dangers he or she faces by abusing prescription pain medications. One possible reason for this large number of users is that many teens believe prescription drugs are much safer than the illicit drugs found on the streets because they are prescribed by a physician. Those teens are sadly mistaken and it could get worse. Some things to keep in mind are that:
- After Marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by children 14 years old and younger.
- They abuse prescription drugs to get high, to stop pain, or because they think it will help them with school work.
- Most teens get the prescription drugs from friends and relatives, sometimes without the person knowing.
- They abuse prescription drugs for different reasons. (For example, more boys will do it to get high, while girls do it to stay alert or to lose weight)
There are three kinds of prescription drugs that are commonly abused:
- Opioids (Vicodin, OxyContin, or codeine – can make you feel sleepy, sickness, constipated, and irregular breathing which could cause death)
- Depressants (Valium, Barbiturates, or Xanax – can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, sleepiness, disorientation, and the lack of coordination)
- Stimulants (Adderall and Ritalin – can make you feel paranoid, rapid heartbeat, and extremely high body temperature)
There are a multitude of risks with taking prescription pills that aren’t for you. For example, you have a chance of overdosing. Let’s not forget to mention that prescription opioids are potentially addictive. To say the least, using any illicit drugs to manage your life is setting up a pattern of dependency that may prevent you from learning how to cope with this issue. Addition to that, whenever you allow alcohol to get involved, these dangers increase.
Something else to think about as well is the statistics on usage. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), prescription drug abuse is considered as an epidemic. Almost one in every four (25%) teens in America say they have misused or abused a prescription drug and one-third (33%) of the teenagers at least 12 years old who use drugs for the first time began using prescription drugs because of:
- Peer pressure
- Emotional struggles
- A desire to escape
According to the research done by The Partnership at Drugfree.org shows that one in five (20%) teens have abused prescription medications. These results were across racial, ethnic, and geographical boundaries. Some teens who admitted to taking prescription drugs claim it was to help “manage” their lives while others said it was to help give them energy and the ability to focus when they are studying or taking tests. The ones that were under emotional stress took tranquilizers. For those who wanted to lose weight, they admitted to using prescriptions amphetamines.
It’s important to note that if you have medication that is prescribed to you, be sure to lock it up or keep them hidden out of sight. Most medications are obtained by stealing them from the medicine cabinets of friends, family members, and acquaintances. Some hand out or sell their own medication if not the ones they’ve acquired and stolen from classmates. It’s revealed that a small minority of teens get prescription drugs from doctors, pharmacists, or on the internet.
With prescription drug abuse on the rise, we can’t stress hard enough on how important it is to keep all medication in a secure location. Knowing where your medications are at all times will help keep it out of the hands of other people. If you want a few ideas:
- Try to hide them in an area that is not accessible to children or visitors (avoid leaving them in your bathroom medicine cabinet and kitchen cupboard),
- A lock box or locked filing cabinet that only you have the key to,
- If you need to leave or go on a trip, have a plastic tote to put your medications into.
**It’s also a criminal offense to share prescription medications, even with family members!
No one thinks about the withdrawals when hooked on prescription drugs nor how it affects the body when the usage stops. Physical dependence is one of the worst things that can happen because the body has to adapt after a while from having drugs in the system. Over time, this builds what is known as “tolerance”, meaning that a larger dose of the drug is needed in order to achieve that same level of high.
Dependence, itself, is not the same as addiction, but it very well could lead to one. Why do you think medical physicians strongly urge their patients to only take the recommended dosage and stop when they are saying? The answer is simply because the medication is prescribed in way where the amount that is deemed appropriate for that particular person in order to make it less likely he or she will develop a dependence for that drug.
One of the biggest risks about taking someone else’s prescription medications is how it can affect the brain over a period of time. It will change the basic way a person thinks, how they react to situations, or how they act in public. Imagine having intense withdrawals or cravings that make it difficult to stop using that type of medication. It’s an obsession that takes over your mind; becoming fixated on only finding and using that drug.
If you suspect your teen is doing drugs, it may be in your best interests to have him or her tested as soon as possible. We can suggest you use on of several testing kits we offer on our website, including the HairConfirm drug test kit that can check back for up to 90 days! Another good test is the Oratect Oral Drug Screen Test that will check for the 5 basic drugs of abuse. Want to check for K2/Spice? No problem! We have the BioSciences Synthetic Marijuana Urine Drug Test Kit that is reliable and very easy to use.
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