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Drug Abuse

You already know about the widespread abuse of dangerous drugs by teens. The list is endless: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, alcohol, tobacco, methamphetamines, anabolic steroids. And don't forget about the substances that are as near as the supermarket-or your medicine cabinet: inhalants, stimulants and tranquilizers.

Some easily obtained substances seem harmless but can be deadly: room deodorizer, spray paint, nail polish remover, paint thinner, liquid paper, gasoline and insecticide. These are rapidly absorbed by the brain and can cause convulsions, blood vessel damage, heart attacks and death.

Kids are offered drugs at an alarmingly early age. It is imperative that we as parents know and watch for signs of drug abuse:

  • Problems in schoolwork: low grades, assignments not completed
  • Skipping school
  • Memory lapses
  • Short attention span
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Carelessness about appearance
  • Withdrawal from parents and family
  • Breaking away from old friends/having a new set of friends
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and favorite activities
  • Violent behavior
  • Listlessness

If you believe there is a problem, here are some parenting tips and strategies:

  • Learn all you can about drugs and alcohol.
  • Find out about the drug problems in your community and schools.
  • Talk to other parents and school personnel.
  • Get involved with community anti-drug groups.
  • Look for support groups, such as NarAnon and Families Anonymous.
  • Discuss your suspicions with your child in a calm manner, and not while he or she is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs.
  • Seek help from drug counselors.

The best course of action is prevention. Don't wait until your child shows signs of a problem. If you have not already done so, begin talking about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs right now.

Model good behavior. Don't talk about the dangers of smoking as you light your cigarette. If you drink, be responsible always. Few teens are going to heed the anti-drinking advice of someone who gets behind the wheel of the car after "just one."

Above all, keep communication lines open. Be a good listener, and let your child know that he or she can talk to you about any subject, no matter how sensitive.