Teenagers are at significant risk of drug and substance use, which can cause life-long, irreversible damage. Parents have a critical role during the teenage years of their children. Teenagers are inevitably going to face temptation when spending time with friends and going to parties. It is no secret that substance abuse in teens is a major problem in society. However, no parent wants to lock their teens away and prevent them from having fun. It is important for parents to be informed and proactive to best help their teens avoid going down the ruinous path of substance abuse and addiction.
Signs of Drug Use
Sudden behavioural changes can leave parents wondering if they are witnessing normal growth and development or if their teens are hiding drug or alcohol use. While there are rarely black-and-white answers, teen drug abuse often features several red flags: • Changes in friends: A teenager who suddenly stops hanging out with their old friends in favour of a new friend group may be at risk of experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
• Poorer grades: If your teenager is suddenly performing poorly in school, drug use may be a contributing factor. Skipping school is a major red flag.
• Changes in physical appearance: Bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils are hallmark signs of substance use. Similarly, a lack of attention to personal hygiene, unusual bruising, or a constantly running nose are also warning signs.
• Evasive behaviour: Overt behavioural syndromes or paranoia are reasons to be concerned that your child is hiding something.
• Other changes: Other potential signs of drug use in teens include: Unusual containers, wrappers or paraphernalia; missing money, alcohol or prescription drugs; sudden disinterest in hobbies or extracurricular activities.
What Parents Should Do
The challenge of parenting teens is giving them the trust and freedom they need to learn and grow without letting them slip into patterns of risky behaviour. Teen drug use is dangerous and has serious repercussions. As your child enters the teenage years, maintain an open dialogue with them about your expectations from them and what they can expect from you. They should be aware that unusual behaviour or poor reports from school will result in increased parental oversight. Whenever possible, discuss the consequences of misbehaviour with your child. If you are concerned that your teen is using drugs, the most straightforward approach is also one of the most informative: Ask them directly.
Try to maintain a non-judgemental demeanour and give them plenty of time to explain. Finally, substance abuse in teens is a complex topic. There are a lot of questions that parents have about helping their teenagers avoid drug use and abuse. Unfortunately, there are few easy answers. Focus on what you can do to help empower your teens to say no to drugs. Keep an open dialogue with your teens about substance abuse and its dangers. Provide a strong support system to help them through difficult times and strive to build their self-esteem so that they feel comfortable and confident.
—The writer is a research scholar. [email protected]