Teen Drug Abuse: Facts, Causes, Symptoms and Other Useful Information

One day, he took me to a ‘joint’ where we met other teen drug abuse culprits. They offered me marijuana, I refused. They offered it again and again and again. I eventually accepted to ‘taste’.” That was how Michael started abusing drugs.

In 1998, National Household Survey on Drug Abuse reported that an estimated 13.6 million Americans were users of illicit drugs. Although this number is slightly less than the 13.9 million estimates for 1997, it said the difference is not statistically significant. 9.9 percent of youths age 12-17 engage in teen drug abuse. This estimate represents a statistically significant decrease from the estimate of 11.4 percent in 1997.)

The percent of youth reporting the use of illicit drugs has fluctuated since 1995 (9.0 percent in 1996 and 11.4 percent in 1997). 8.3 percent of youths age 12-17 were users of marijuana in 1998. The prevalence of marijuana use among youth did not change significantly between 1997 when it was 9.4 percent and 1998 when it was at the rate of 8.3 percent teen drug abuse. An estimated 1.8 million (0.8 percent) Americans age 12 and older were teen drug abuse(ers) users of cocaine in 1998. The estimate was 1.5 million (0.7 percent) in 1997; but the difference is not statistically significant.

Cocaine use reached a peak of 5.7 million or 3.0 percent of the population in 1985. The percent of youths reporting current use of inhalants decreased significantly from 2.0 percent in 1997 to 1.1 percent in 1998. An estimated 4.1 million people met diagnostic criteria for dependence on illicit drugs in 1997 and 1998, including 1.1 million youths age 12-17.

Causes of Teen Drug Abuse

Though there is no singular known cause of teen drug abuse, some of these factors below may push the teen to abuse drugs.

  • Insufficient parental supervision and monitoring may put the parents in dark on teen drug abuse.
  • Lack of communication and interaction between parents and kids
  • Poorly defined and poorly communicated rules and expectations against drug use may lead to teen drug abuse.
  • Inconsistent and excessively severe discipline
  • Family conflict
  • Favorable parental attitudes toward adolescent alcohol and drug use, and parental alcoholism or drug use may encourage the youth to engage in teen drug abuse.

The following are some warning signs that may indicate teen drug abuse:

  1. Neglected appearance/hygiene
  2. Poor Self Image
  3. Dropping Grades – Truancy
  4. Violent Outbursts, Verbally Abusive
  5. Frequent use of Eye Wash
  6. Unexplained Weight Loss
  7. Drug Paraphernalia
  8. Slurred Speech
  9. Curfew Violations
  10. Running Away
  11. Skin Abrasions
  12. Hostility towards family members
  13. Chemical smelling breath
  14. Glassy or Red Eyes
  15. Missing Valuables or Unexplainable Possession of Valuables
  16. Stealing/Borrowing Money
  17. Change in Friends
  18. Depression, Withdrawal, Apathy
  19. Reckless Behavior
  20. No Concern for the Future
  21. Defies Family values – Disrespectful to Parents
  22. Lying/Deception – Sneaky Behavior
  23. Disregards Consequences
  24. Loss of Interest in Healthy Activities
  25. Manipulative/Self-Centered
  26. Lack of Motivation

What to do about Teen Drug Abuse?

Mother and father should first talk privately with each other and agree on when to talk to your teen. But the conversation should be immediate. The earlier you start facing the problem, the better the chances of your teen getting well.

  • Then find some where quiet to settle down with your child for an open conversation. Tell your teen point blank about your suspicions, but don’t accuse him directly.
  • Do not have this conversation when your child is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. It is okay to wait for a day a day if he comes home drunk from a party, or if her room smells of drugs.
  • Ask your child what’s been going on in her life. Talk about ways to avoid using alcohol and other drugs in the future. You may need help during this conversation; get another family member, or a guidance counselor.
  • Remember firmness is the key. Be firm and enforce whatever discipline you’ve laid out in the past for violation of house rules. You should discuss ways your child can regain your lost trust: calling in, spending evenings at home, or improving grades.
  • Just like many adults, many young people deny their alcohol and other drug use. If you have strong evidence that your child is lying about his teen drug abuse, you may want to have him evaluated by a health professional experienced in diagnosing adolescents with alcohol- and drug-related problems. If you decide to go this route, remember that you’re trying to help your child against teen drug abuse.
  • Get the support of important others, like friends, relatives, teachers, and coaches, to persuade them to attend the program on teen drug abuse.

Some useful sites on teen drug abuse:

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