Did you know your child’s brain is the last organ in the body to fully develop? Your child’s brain won’t fully mature until age 24 or 25. When alcohol or drugs are introduced to the developing brain, you change it’s development forever. For that reason, parents are fighting for time and must have a zero tolerance for underage use of any substance. Kids are starting to experiment with alcohol as early as 5th grade. It often takes parents two years to discover their child’s drug habit, meaning their child could easily be addicted before reaching high school.
Alcohol & Drunk or Drugged Driving
Ever wonder where kids get their alcohol for parties? It’s no mystery: friends and family. Kids are starting to take their first drink as early as 4th grade, so it’s never too early to lock it up! Don’t give into the lie “all teens drink, so you might as well let them drink at home.” Not all teens drink, and making underage drinking easy for them is irresponsible, illegal and sometimes deadly. If you think your child is drinking alcohol, be awake when they get home, give them a hug and smell their breath. Be the excuse they need to say “No, I can’t. My parents will be awake when I get home.”
Vaping, E-Cigarettes & Nicotine
The tobacco industry has significantly increased their marketing of e-cigarette products, and teens are drawn in by their ease of use and a variety of sweet and fruity flavors. Even worse, they are easily available and can be purchased online by anyone. E-cigarettes are also being touted as a healthier option, without any studies on long term health effects to back up those “healthy” claims. All of that can make it hard for your teen to understand the dangers of nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and incredibly harmful to their health. Even worse, teen smokers don’t stop with smoking. They’re more likely to smoke marijuana, binge drink, and use other illegal drugs, so intervention and cessation are critical if your teen is currently chewing, vaping, or smoking.
Marijuana is absolutely a gateway drug, and today’s marijuana is not the same as it was when we were teenagers. The potency levels are significantly higher, especially now that marijuana comes in various forms such as; butane hash oil, honey oil, wax, and edibles where THC levels can reach 74-80%.
The struggle to keep our children away from marijuana is getting more difficult. Marijuana use is now legal in several states, with more sure to follow, and the media acts as if everyone is getting high. Don’t give in to the lies that it’s just “a little pot” and “they’re not really doing it all the time.” Get serious about marijuana, and if you suspect or catch your teen getting high, get them assessed right away. You’re not alone.
Prescriptions & OTC Drugs
How do you protect your child from drugs they acquire legally? More and more teens are abusing drugs found right in their own homes. Xanax, Adderall, Hydrocodone, and OxyContin have become highly coveted substances. Even teens smart enough to not abuse these medicines have been known to sell their pills at school. Even if you trust your teen to take his or her own medication, occasionally count the pills in the bottle to ensure that they are being used as directed. Be sure keep a close watch on your own medicine and discard any old prescriptions to remove temptation.
After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly misused substances by Americans age 14 and older
American Society of Addiction Medicine:
Opioid Addiction 2016 Facts and Figures
The spiraling use of painkillers among teens is leading to an epidemic of heroin use. Why? Because it’s cheaper and easier to obtain. It’s also highly addictive and potent. Parents need to be very concerned, because initiations into heroin have increased 80% among 12 to 17-year-olds since 2002. If your child is prescribed painkillers due to a sport injury or after having wisdom teeth removed, pay close attention to what is prescribed and the quantity. Ask for a non-opiate alternative, and limit the quantity prescribed to a two or three day supply only.
Less than 2% of teenagers use meth, teen use is declining, and teens say it is harder to get than it used to be. But parents should still be vigilant, because the numbers for the general population have gone way up. The majority of meth users are in their early 20s, so educate your teen on the dangers of meth before it becomes a temptation. Meth usage tends to be concentrated in certain parts of the country, and while it leaves some populations untouched, it completely ravages others. Meth has an alarmingly high risk of dependency and abuse, so wherever it appears, it tends to stay. Even if you feel that your area is relatively free of meth, educate your children on the dangers of this drug.
Huffing & the Choking Game
Have you ever heard of “huffing?” Did you know kids as young as first and second grade have tried it? Huffing involves either breathing directly from an aerosol can or through a cloth soaked in solvent. Some teens breathe the fumes out of a plastic bag covering their nose and mouth or placed over their head, increasing the risk of brain damage and death. This method for getting high has become popular, especially in younger preteens who do not have the resources to get drugs that older teens have. Markers, whipped cream cans, butane cooking sprays and other household items are used to get high, and death can occur on the first attempt. As a parent, it’s so important to know the warning signs and talk to our kids about huffing.
The phone rings at 3 a.m. It’s the hospital. They tell you that you need to get to the hospital as quickly as possible because your son is going into surgery. He’s been in a bad car accident. You tell the caller that it’s not possible. Your son is in bed… but when you go look in his bedroom, he’s not there. Sneaking out at night is a teenager’s way of exercising freedom without their parents’ knowledge. It is a trend that begins at a much younger age than most parents realize, and the dangers they face are far more serious than most teens will admit or share with their parents. Teens may also sneak others into their homes while parents are asleep.
So many of our kids are dealing with extremely painful personal and family issues. It’s no wonder they are angry. The world around them makes their lives more difficult by glorifying violence and mocking those who practice self-control. While we may not be able to control the anger and violence out in the world, we can learn how to make our homes a peaceful place so our teens can decompress.