Drug Addiction and Alcoholism

What parents should know about drug addiction

Drug and substance abuse among children, especially teens, is substantial. According to the most recent statistics available, 1.1 million of our youth age 12 to 17 meet the diagnostic criteria for dependence on drugs and approximately 1 million of our American youth are being treated for alcohol dependency. Although these statistics may be startling, there are many things that parents can/should know about the prevention of drug addiction including how to recognize the signs/symptoms of drug/alcohol addiction and what they can do to help their child once a problem has been recognized.

Studies have shown that parents are often the first line of defense in the prevention of drug addiction. Numerous public service commercial announcements advertise parents as “the anti-drug.” Parents need to understand that ignorance is not bliss. Parents need to be well armed with the facts on prevention and treatment.

Parents need to spend quality time with their children and be open to discussions on drugs and alcohol. Parents need to know who their child’s friends are, where they are going, what they are doing, etc. Parents need to make their expectations very clear and establish that they will not tolerate drug use of any kind. If all of these factors are utilized, children will be less likely to use drugs.

It is also important that parents educate themselves about the types of drugs currently available. Although some of the standard drugs (drugs that may have been popular while the parent was a youth) are still around (marijuana, LSD, etc) there are also a number of new drugs that are very popular with today’s youth such as the inhalants (huffing). Conduct research on the Internet or attend a local community meeting regarding substance abuse.

There are three categories of substance abuse:

  • Use (the occasional use of drugs without developing tolerance of withdrawal symptoms when not in use).
  • Abuse (the continued used of drugs even while knowing that the continued use is creating problems socially, physically or psychologically).
  • Dependence in which three of the following factors must be present: the substance is taken in large amounts over longer periods of time; their child has a persistent desire for the substance and has been unable to control their use; child may suffer from repeated periods of intoxication or detoxification; child continues to use even though the substance is causing problems; and the child takes more of the substance in order to relieve any withdrawal symptoms they may be experiencing.

Symptoms of substance abuse include the following:

  • Personality changes
  • Unusual outbreaks of temper
  • Withdrawal from responsibility
  • Changes in overall attitude
  • Loss of interest in favorite hobbies and pursuits
  • Changes in friends
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Increased secretiveness
  • Sudden jitteriness, nervousness or aggression
  • Deterioration of physical appearance/grooming
  • Unusual borrowing from friends, co-workers or parents
  • Stealing

It is important for parents to note that different substances lend themselves to different groups of drug addiction symptoms. In all cases however, the most glaring symptom is a radical change in behavior.

If you suspect that your child is abusing drugs, consult with your personal physician or pediatrician. You may also want to discuss the matter with your clergy or spiritual leader, an educational consultant, a therapist or a counselor. These professionals will help you assess the situation and seek the proper addiction treatment for your child.

Once your child has been diagnosed as having a drug addiction, there are a number of treatment options/programs available including:

  • Outpatient treatment
  • Day Treatment services
  • Residential programs

Residential drug rehab and treatment programs may include Therapeutic Residential Boarding Schools or Therapeutic Wilderness Programs. Therapeutic Residential Boarding Schools stress holistic education whereas Therapeutic Wilderness Programs use outdoor therapy to work on issues. Residential Treatment Schools are highly structured environments whose emphasis is on treatment and learning coping skills and independent living techniques. Chemical education and treatment are also provided. To determine which method will be most beneficial to your child, research and discuss your options with a professional.