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Warning Signs of Teen Substance Abuse
The following behaviors can be warning signs of problems related to alcohol or other drug use.
Some of the warning signs listed above can also be signs of other problems. Parents may recognize signs of trouble but should not be expected to make the diagnosis.
Consulting a physician to rule out physical causes of the warning signs is a good first step. This should often be followed or accompanied by a comprehensive evaluation by a mental health professional.
NEXT: Treatment & Recovery
by John Townsend
To help teenagers grow into healthy adults, parents and youth workers need to teach them how to take responsibility for their behavior, their values, and their lives. Dr. Townsend gives important keys for establishing healthy boundaries --- the bedrock of good relationships, maturity, safety, and growth for teens and the adults in their lives. Boundaries with Teens offers help in raising teens to take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and emotions.
An Addict's Story: What's at the Root of Addictions? ~ The factors that lead a person into addiction are rooted in childhood. They are: feelings of unworthiness and shame, anticipation of being rejected, the belief that no one will come through for them so they must rely on themselves, and the addictive agent is their greatest need for pleasure, relief, and/or distraction from pain. These factors feed off each other.
Consequences of Youth Substance Abuse ~ Young people who persistently abuse substances often experience an array of problems, including academic difficulties, health-related problems (including mental health), poor peer relationships, and involvement with the juvenile justice system. Additionally, there are consequences for family members, the community, and the entire society.
Drinking or using drugs before 15 triples risk of becoming addict or criminal ~ Even children who had shown no signs of problem behavior while they were young were more likely to go on to become addicted to drink or drugs, contract sexually transmitted diseases, and have a criminal record, if they took drugs or drank on 'multiple occasions' in their early teens.
Family Factors Contributing to Risk and Resiliency ~ Substance abuse is the result of a complex interaction of individual, family, peer, community, and societal factors. A consistent global finding is that substance abuse runs in families. A family history of drug abuse and dependence substantially increases the risk for such problems among members.
Preventing Drug Use Among Children and Adolescents: A Research-Based Guide for Parents, Educators, and Community Leaders ~ Copies of this guide can be obtained free of charge from the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at 1-800-729-6686. Also in Spanish.
Relationships Matter: Impact of Parental, Peer Factors on Teen, Young Adult Substance Abuse ~ The influence of family and peers on adolescent substance abuse has been well documented in the scientific literature. Generally, positive family influences, such as family bonding and consistent rules, appear to reduce the risk of tobacco, marijuana, and other drug abuse among teens, while negative family influences tend to increase risk. The same is true of positive and negative peer factors. Little research, however, has been conducted to see how parental and peer factors interact to influence adolescents' initiation to and young adults' use of drugs.
Short-Term Memory Loss Linked to Poor Academic Performance, Short-Term Memory Loss in Teens ~ Researchers aren't sure how much academic performance improves after students stop drinking and using other drugs. There is indirect evidence in the form of improvements in scores on tests of attention and memory after teens stop using. But for the heaviest users deficits in brain development may be permanent.
Solitary Drug, Alcohol and Cigarette Use Puts Adolescents At Higher Risk ~ Solitary alcohol, cigarette and marijuana users are less likely to graduate from college, more likely to have substance use problems as young adults, and tend to report poorer physical health by age 23 than their peers who were social substance users.
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