Drug use (substance abuse) is a serious cry for help, and making your teen feel ashamed or embarrassed can make the problem worse.
Some common behavior changes you may notice if your teenager is abusing drugs and alcohol are:
Violent outbursts, rage, disrespectful behavior
Poor or dropping grades
Unexplained weight loss or gain
Skin abrasions, track marks
Missing curfew, running away, truancy
Bloodshot eyes, distinct "skunky" odor on clothing and skin
Missing jewelry, money
Depression, apathy, withdrawal, disengaged from the family
Tips to help prevent substance abuse:
1. Communication is the key to prevention. Whenever an opportunity arises about the risks of drinking and driving or the dangers of using drugs, take it to start a conversation. Remember parents, it is important to be a parent first - friendship will come in time.
2. Have a conversation not a confrontation. If you suspect your teen is using drugs, talk to them. Don't judge them, talk to them about the facts of the dangers of substance abuse. If your teen isn't opening up to you, be sure you find an adolescent therapist that can help.
3. Addict in the family? Do you have an addict in your family? Sadly many families have been effected by someone that has allowed drugs to take over their lives. With this, it is a reminder to your teen that you want them to have bright future filled with happiness. The last thing you want for them is to end up like ____.
4. Don't be a parent in denial. There is no teenager that is immune to drug abuse. No matter how smart your teen is, or athletic they are, they are at risk if they start using. I firmly believe that keeping your teen constructively busy, whether it is with sports, music or other hobbies they have, you will be less at risk for them to want to experiment. However don't be in the dark thinking that your teen is pulling a 4.0 GPA and on the varsity football that they couldn't be dragged down by peer pressure. Go back to number one - talk, talk, talk - remind your teen how proud you are of them, and let them know that you are always available if they feel they are being pressured to do or try something they don't want to.
5. Do you know what your teen is saying? Listen or watch on texts or emails for code words for certain drug lingo. Skittling, Tussing, Skittles, Robo-tripping, Red Devils, Velvet, Triple C, C-C-C-, Robotard are some of the names kids use for cough and cold medication abuse. Weed, Pot, Ganja, Mary Jane, Grass, Chronic, Buds, Blunt, Hootch, Jive stick, Ace, Spliff, Skunk, Smoke, Dubie, Flower, Zig Zag are all slang for marijuana.
6. Leftovers. Are there empty medicine wrappers or bottles, burn marks on their clothes or rug, ashes, stench, etc in their room or if they own a car, in their car? Teens (and tweens) either take several pills or smash them so all of it is released at once. Be sure to check all pockets, garbage cans, cars, closets, under beds, etc. for empty wrappers and other evidence of drug use. Where are your prescription drugs? Have you counted them lately?
7. Body language. Tune into changes in your teen's behavior. Changing peer groups, altering their physical appearance and/or lack of hygiene, eating or sleeping patterns changing, hostile and uncooperative attitude (defiance), missing money or other valuables from the home, sneaking out of the house, etc.
8. Access to alcohol. Look around your home, is there liquor that is easily accessible? Teens admit getting alcohol is easy-and the easiest place to get it is in their home. Know what you have in the house and if you suspect your teen is drinking, lock it up! Talk to them about the risks of drinking, especially if they are driving.
9. Seal the deal. Have your teen sign a contract to never drink and drive. Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD) provides a free online contract to download. It may help them pause just the second they need to not get behind that wheel.
10. Set the example, be the example. What many parents don't realize is that you are the leading role model for your teen. If your teen sees you smoking or drinking frequently, what is the message you are sending? Many parents will have a glass of wine or other alcoholic beverage, however the teen needs to understand you are the adult, and there is a reason that the legal drinking age is 21.
Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.
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