Marijuana Use

According to recent reports, erectile one in fifteen teenagers is using marijuana on a daily basis. More 10th graders smoke marijuana than cigarettes. On the other hand, order other forms of substance abuse are declining among this group – including alcohol use and other drugs.

What are the Immediate Effects of Marijuana?
Short term cannabis use (marijuana/weed/hemp/pot/grass and other slang names) often stimulates feelings of relaxation and elevated mood.  Appreciation for art and music may be enhanced or at least artistic appreciation might feel enhanced! Ideas can flow rapidly and the user may become quite talkative as well. In fact, pilule cannabis users may experience a variety of effects upon intoxication, including becoming hungry, having the giggles, experiencing hallucinations, experiencing increased  anxiety, suffering impaired motor coordination, experiencing increased fatigue and lowered motivation. However, a user will usually appear more or less normal to outside observers, even when he or she is highly intoxicated.

What are the Effects of Cannabis Intoxication?
Intoxication (getting “high”) is a disturbed state that often begins with symptoms of mild anxiety that can later progress to feelings of panic and might also include distortions in time perception, impaired judgment, impaired learning and problem-solving, euphoria, social withdrawal and motor impairment. Marijuana can also increase feelings of depression. Marijuana’s negative impact on memory and learning can last for days or even weeks after intoxication. Regular users may therefore be in a state of continuous lowered intellectual functioning. Those driving cars while intoxicated on marijuana have slower reaction times, impaired judgment, and impaired response to signals and sounds. Impulsivity increases, as does risk taking behavior. Physical symptoms can include dry mouth, rapid heart rate, red eyes and increased appetite.

The most common untoward reaction to cannabis is the development of an anxiety disorder, but use of the drug can also lead to serious psychotic disorders in those who are vulnerable. Vulnerability is associated with early use of marijuana (prior to age 18)  – in which case users have 2 to 4 times the frequency of psychotic illness occurring by young adulthood.  Also, those who start taking marijuana before age 18 have a much higher incidence of becoming addicted to the drug. Lastly, it appears that adolescent users are susceptible to drug induced permanent brain changes that affect memory and cognitive functioning.

What are the Effects of Cannabis Withdrawal?
When addicted users go off marijuana, they experience unpleasant symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, cravings for the drug, sleeplessness and decreased appetite. The symptoms are unpleasant enough to make abstinence challenging. They peak at 2-3 days off the drug and then subside within a couple of weeks. The most likely people to become addicted to marijuana are those who have started its use while in their teens and those who use the drug daily. Addiction is characterized in part by continued use of the substance despite negative effects on relationships, work or school performance or  other aspects of functioning.

Treatment for Cannabis Intoxication
Treatment can range from in-patient hospitalization, drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities, to various outpatient programs and individual drug therapy counselling. Narcotics Anonymous (twelve-step programs) and other such group support programs are also helpful treatment options.

The Role of Parents
There’s much that parents can do to help their children avoid experimenting with or seriously using marijuana. Here are some ideas:

  • Bring home education books from your public library and leave them lying around with other books. Alternatively, leave them in the bathroom for “reading material.” Books written for young people on this subject are appealing to the age group with lots of simple information, pictures and user-friendly guidance.
  • Talk about drugs and alcohol at your dinner table. Give your opinions and share your knowledge.
  • LISTEN to what your kids are saying – without criticism, negative feedback or judgment. You don’t want them to shut down and keep their thoughts (and actions) to themselves. Instead, show thoughtful interest and curiosity and try to relate what they are saying to your own adolescent and current life experience.
  • Teach your kids healthy ways of managing stress – don’t assume they know how to process hurt, anger or fear. Bring home books on stress management and emotional awareness and talk about these things at your table.
  • Offer your kids professional counseling when they seem to have too much stress or when they are withdrawing, very anxious, suffering from insomnia, seem to be in low mood or otherwise seem emotionally off balance. You don’t want them to discover the pleasure of “self-medicating” through drugs!
  • Strengthen the emotional stability of your family, the health of your marriage and the happiness of your home through education and counseling as necessary – a happier home environment is preventative as far as heavy drug use goes.
  • Use an authoritative style of parenting – have some rules and boundaries but emphasize warmth (see “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice” for a balanced parenting strategy). Refrain from using too many rules, too much criticism or too much anger.

Suicidal Feelings

A certain number of people kill themselves each year, most of whom were suffering from severe depression. Fortunately, 90% of people with depression are able to live full lives while managing their episodes of depressed mood. Only about 10% will end their lives (this number depends on where a person lives – countries vary in their availability of effective treatments and support for depression, so there is a wide international variability in suicide rates).  The pervasive sad mood that comes with depression, as well as the increased tendency among the depressed to obsess on negative thoughts, makes them susceptible to the hopelessness and irrationality characteristic of the suicidal person. People do not “choose” suicide; they fall victim to it as part of their illness.

What are the Implications for Parents?
The link between suicidality and depression should serve as alarm bells when helping our children deal with mental health issues. If we have a loved one who is suffering from depression, it is always prudent to watch out for signs of suicidality. A depressed child is at risk for succumbing to suicidal thoughts; it is up to parents to help prevent this. Vigilant parents can be familiar with the warning signs of suicidality and take action. Moreover, they can do everything possible to get their child the right kind of help. In addition, they can work hard to reduce the other stressors in the child’s life – like school work (negotiate accommodations with the school) and conflict in the home. In fact, when the parents work on their own marriage and parenting skills to increase peace in the home, this can help tremendously.

What are the Warning Signs?
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry these signs are:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
  • Violent behavior or running away
  • Substance abuse
  • Neglect of personal grooming
  • Personality change
  • Difficulty concentrating, persistent boredom
  • Drop in academic performance
  • Marked personality change
  • Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
  • Loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities
  • Speaking positively about death or romanticizing dying (“If I died, people will appreciate me more.”)
  • Writing about death, dying, or suicide
  • Engaging in reckless or dangerous behavior; being injured frequently in accidents
  • Giving away or discard favorite possessions
  • Saying permanent sounding goodbyes to friends and family
  • Seeking out weapons, pills, or other lethal tools

A child or teen  who is planning to commit suicide may also:

  • Complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
  • Give verbal hints with statements such as: “I won’t be a problem for you much longer.”, “Nothing matters.”, “It’s no use.”, and “I won’t see you again.”
  • Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • Have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)

The risk of suicide is high among those who have attempted suicide before, know someone who has killed themselves, and are pessimistic about the chances of getting relief from chronic depression. Also, teens who have a family history of mental illness and suicide are more likely to attempt suicide as are teens who have clinical depression or who suffer from active addiction. Teens who’ve already made a suicide attempt have a higher chance of committing suicide successfully. Vulnerable teenagers who suffer a serious loss (like the breakup of a romantic relationship) may try to stop the pain with suicide. A history of physical or sexual abuse, incarceration, alienation from parents and refusal to access mental health services all increase suicidal risk. Males have a higher “success” rate for suicide than females, but females make many more suicide attempts than do males. Also take note if your depressed child suddenly seems unusally happy. Sometimes this switch in attitude happens because a child has decided to end his suffering and he is actually experiencing a state of relief. Remember that depressed mood is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition and should always be professionally treated.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry recommends taking a child’s suicidal statements seriously. If a child or adolescent says, “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide,” ask him what he means. Don’t be afraid of saying the word “suicide.” You won’t be giving the teen an idea that he hadn’t thought about. Instead, you’ll help him or her think things through. Ask about depression, anxiety and unhappiness. Don’t just tell the child no to talk that way.  Show interest and concern and get your child to a qualified mental health professional (such as a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist).

Suicidal Behavior in Teens
Teenagers are a vulnerable group. They experience tremendous pressure from all sides: from inside their changing bodies, from their parents, from their schools and from their peers. No one can be perfect in every area and so everyone is doing poorly in something. But teenagers can feel isolated with their failures and setbacks, lacking the perspective that older people have that “we’re all in this together.” Teenagers are intent on fitting in, looking good, being acceptable. If the only group they can fit into is a violent, drug-ridden street gang, then that’ll be the group they might very well join, especially if they have little support elsewhere or few sources of success and strength.

Because the pressure is so intense, many teens do not cope well. Their survival strategies depend to a large extent on their genetic make-up and the strategies they learn at home. Some teenagers have “hardy” genes that help them survive and thrive under stressful conditions. They can laugh their way through almost anything or simply tough it out. Others are genetically vulnerable to bouts of depression. However, the depressed teen is more at risk than depressed adults. Teens are very focused in the present. They have trouble imagining that in a few years life can improve tremendously. Their impulsivity can lead them to put an end to it all right now because they just can’t see any way out.

What You Can Do
Parents can also help buffer teens from stress by keeping the doors of communication open. Make it easy for your kids to talk to you. Keep criticism to a minimum; instead, give praise and positive feedback generously. Have fun with your teenager and try to make your home pleasant, comfortable and safe. Keep conflict down with your spouse. Avoid drama. Take care of yourself and create a healthy model of stress management strategies for your kids to learn from. Create a positive atmosphere. Have a dinner table several times a week and use it to have discussions on politics, human nature, interesting things in the news or whatever—keep talking with your kids. Make your values clear. Bring tradition and ritual into your home.  Accept all feelings without correction or disapproval. Ask for behavioral change gently and respectfully. Never yell at your teenager. Never insult, name call, use sarcasm or any other form of verbal abuse. Instead, be sensitive to your teen’s feelings at all times. Discipline when necessary but only after you’ve warned a child that discipline will occur and only with mild discipline—never affecting the teen’s social life (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for safe and effective ways of guiding teenagers).

If your teen demonstrates any of the symptoms of depression or suicidality, talk to him or her about what you are observing and arrange an appointment with a mental health professional. You can call suicide helplines in your area to get information about how to help your child. You can take your child for a mental health assessment. If your child is uncooperative, seek mental health guidance yourself. Since a suicidal person feels isolated and hopeless, any steps that family members take to address the situation can be powerfully preventative. Remember, too, that many parents have walked this road before you. Access on-line and community support if your child has been threatening suicide.

Substance Abuse

One of the strongest fears among parents today is that their child will develop an addiction to a drug or illegal substance. This fear is understandable; addiction is a progressive, life-threatening disorder that affects both physical health and mental functioning. All parents want to see their children live the life that they deserve; addiction is a one way path to destruction.

Addiction, also called substance dependency, typically begins with substance use followed by substance abuse.

Substance Use and Intoxication
Substance use is simply choosing to partake of a substance, whether it’s something found in everyday meals (e.g. caffeine, sugar) or something more threatening such as lifestyle drugs (e.g. alcohol, nicotine from cigarettes), regulated medicines (e.g. cough syrup, pain killers, ADHD drugs), or illegal drugs (e.g. cocaine, marijuana in some states, hallucinogens). In the case of non-illegal substances, substance use means eating or drinking within acceptable limits or within the amount prescribed by a medical practitioner. In the case of illegal drugs and some regulated chemicals, substance use refers to the “experimentation stage”, when kids decide to try “just once” a prohibited substance.

Substance use can lead to a condition called intoxication, or the experience of the natural effects of substance use in the body. Alcohol intoxication, for example, results in poor vision, impaired judgment, blurry speech, loss of memory and poor sense of balance. Stronger psychoactive drugs, like hallucinogens, can cause temporary feelings of euphoria and loss of reality. Not all feelings produced by intoxication are pleasant ones. Intoxication can also cause overwhelming anxiety or even psychotic episodes. Intoxication is a usually a temporary state that goes away after the substance is flushed out of the body.

Substance Abuse and Dependency
Substance use has progressed to substance abuse when the dosage of the chemical taken is no longer within reasonable limits (for instance, drinking 5 cups of coffee with every meal every day), or when a person continues to use an illegal substance to get some positive effect, such as a feeling of euphoria or relief. Abuse is the choice to use a substance despite experiencing negative effects of the behavior, such as poor grades, interpersonal problems or loss of money. The key word in this definition of abuse is “choice”; the person is not yet dependent on the substance. Dependency occurs once tolerance sets in (see below), and withdrawal symptoms (see below) result from abstinence from the drug or chemical.

Tolerance and Withdrawal
Tolerance and withdrawal are the two hallmarks of an addiction.

Tolerance refers to the body’s natural adaptation to a drug or substance. When a person becomes tolerant to a drug, a dosage that used to produce a specific effect will fail to deliver the results it used to. For example, if 5 mg of a drug used to be enough to grant a feeling of high, now a higher dosage is required to achieve the same effect.  Similarly, if one pain reliever used to work sufficiently well to relieve a headache, tolerance can result in needing double or triple the dose to get the same amount of relief.

Withdrawal symptoms are the negative effects of not using a substance that one is already dependent on. Many people have experienced minor withdrawal effects from going off of coffee or sugar. When dependent on alcohol and drugs, however, withdrawal symptoms can be quite severe. They may include physical effects (headaches, insomnia, shaking, increased heart rate, vomiting, sweating), emotional (depression, irritability, panic, hallucinations) or mental (obsession, difficulty in concentrating). The un-ease that comes during withdrawal is what promotes the addiction; the user now feels compelled to take a drug or substance, not for its positive effect, but because he or she can’t live without it.

What can Parents Do?
Bring home drug-education books from your local children’s library. Books for children use lots of pictures and simple explanations about the effects of alcohol and drugs on the body and mind as well as the effects on a young person’s life. Such materials are designed to “speak” to kids in a way that they can really understand and relate to and they are often far superior to any “lecture” or education delivered by parents. Leaving these kinds of materials in the bathroom and around the house without comment is probably the best approach. Alternatively, read them to children (ages 9 – 12) along with other bedtime material. For teens, just leave the books out and perhaps discuss the material with them at the dinner table. Open communication helps. Also, maintaining a positive, healthy relationship with teens is protective to a certain extent.

If parents want to protect their children from substance abuse disorders, it’s important that they are present and alert as early as the “use” stage. Regulated drugs like pain killers must be carefully watched and monitored, so that they will not get abused. More importantly, children should be made aware than in case of many illegal drugs, there is no such thing as “just experimenting.” Because illegal drugs are addictive by nature, just one try may be enough to get a person hooked. This is especially true for children and teenagers who have a family history of substance dependency.

Once substance use has already progressed to substance dependency, a purely psychological intervention may not be enough to get a user to stop. Because the body’s chemistry is already altered by repeated abuse of medication, detoxification at a rehabilitation facility may be needed before any psychological intervention can be carried out.  If this is the case, it’s best to consult a physician and/or a mental health practitioner specializing in substance abuse disorders.

Refuses to Go to a Mental Health Professional

In an ideal world, consulting a mental health professional would be as easy as consulting a medical doctor – and as stigma-free. Unfortunately, many people still feel an element of shame, embarrassment or other type of awkwardness about going to a psychological professional. Some people still think that mental health professionals only deal with people who are “crazy” and understandably don’t want to be an identified member of such a population. In fact, in the “olden days” mental illness was poorly understood and derogatory terms such as “crazy” were used to describe people who we know know were suffering from various biological disorders such as schizophrenia, manic-depressive disorder or delusional disorders. Psychiatrists and clinical psychologists can now help mentally ill people feel and function better than ever before. Moreover, modern mental health professionals assist not only those who are suffering from true mental illness, but also those who are completely mentally healthy. They help almost everyone to function in less stressful, more productive and happier ways, helping  them achieve their full potential in every area. People who access mental health services in order to feel and achieve their best, tend to be more emotionally sophisticated, open-minded and growth-oriented than those who do not. In other words, it is often the most mentally healthy people who consult mental health pofessionals today.

Although YOU may know all this, your child may not. In fact, your child may have the old misconception that going to a mental health professional means that there is something wrong with you. As a result, he or she may not want to see a mental health professional, even though you know that this is exactly what is needed.

If your child refuses to go to a mental health professional, consider the following tips:

Explain to your Child what Mental Health is and what Mental Health Professionals Do
As previously mentioned, there are many misconceptions that float around regarding the mental health profession — and even young children could have heard of them through playmates and peers. It’s important then that you explain carefully that mental health is just one aspect of our health. Emphasize that healthy people access mental health services in order to learn new skills, improve relationships, reduce stress and emotional discomfort, feel better physically, and achieve more in school or life. Be specific too – talk about the various tasks that mental health professionals perform such as psycho-educational assessments, mental health assessments, family counseling (to reduce conflict or help cope with stress), remove and/or manage fear, anger or sadness, and much more.

Your child may not recognize or agree that he or she has an issue that requires intervention. As a parent, you are in charge of your child’s well-being. If your child had an infection, you would insist on medical attention. Similarly, if your child needs help for an emotional problem, it is up to you to arrange it. If the child in question is a teenager, you might have to deal with resistance – be prepared. First try to motivate the youngster with reason – explain the possible benefits of assessment and treatment. If the child still refuses to cooperate, let him or her know that, privileges will be removed. For example, “No you don’t have to go to see Dr. Haber, but if you decide not to come, you will  not have the use of my car until you change your mind.” Think of whatever consequences might help motivate your adolescent to cooperate.

Tell children what to expect at their first session. If there will be art or music or toys, let your child know that the session should be very enjoyable, even while the therapist is learning about the child’s issues and learning how to be help. If it will be a talking therapy, tell the child how the therapist might open the conversation, what sort of questions might be asked and how the child might approach the conversation. Tell the child how to handle tricky situations like not wanting to talk or open up too much or feeling not understood or being fearful. In other words, prepare for everything!

Gently but Clearly Explain Why you are Referring Them to a Mental Health Practitioner
Tell your child why you have scheduled a mental health consultation. Explain that the consultation is meant to help the child and is not some sort of negative consequence! Kids who are caught breaking the law, or even family rules, are often scheduled for counseling in order to find out the reason for the misbehavior. Children who do not do well in school are referred to educational psychologists for assessment of learning disorders or other causes. Depressed or anxious teens may be sent to psychiatrists or psychologists for treatment. If you are having relationship difficulties with your youngster, make sure to participate in the counseling process in some way, either having joint sessions with the child or having individuals sessions just like the child is having, or both.

Negotiate Confidentiality Boundaries Beforehand
A tricky issue for children in therapy is confidentiality. It’s common for some kids to have hesitation talking to a mental health professional. For them, counselors are just their parents’ spies — a way parents can gather information about them. It’s important that parents (and maybe the mental health professional him or herself) clarify beforehand that all issues discussed within sessions are confidential, and that only the generic nature of issues discussed would be revealed to parents. Similarly, the mental health practitioner can specify what will remain confidential and what sorts of information cannot remain confidential, giving the child the opportunity to share or withhold information knowing the limits of confidentiality.

Tell your Kids that They can Terminate a Consultation Anytime
It’s important that kids actually enjoy their therapy experiences. Negative therapy experiences may affect them negatively throughout life as they refuse to get much needed help because of traumatic memories of therapy in childhood! Therefore, make sure that your child LIKES going to therapy or change the therapist, or the type of therapy, or even consider stopping therapy for the time being and trying again later. Usually, mental health professionals are good at establishing rapport with their clients and child and adolescent specialists are particularly skilled at making kids feel comfortable. Nonetheless, if your child remains uncomfortable after a couple of meetings, end the therapy. Adults also need to feel comfortable in therapy in order to benefit and they, too, have the right to “shop around” for a compatible therapist or therapy approach. Since there are so many different types of treatments and so many therapists, there; they will do their best to get your child feeling at ease before they start an actual intervention. But many factors can cause your child to be uncomfortable with a mental health professional. It’s helpful then that your child knows that you are at least willing to consider enlisting a different professional, or terminating sessions if there are significant concerns.

Teen Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Many teens experiment with drugs and alcohol at some point in their lives. When limited to “soft” substances and short-term experimentation, the experience can be considered “normal” within the North American teen culture. However, drugs and alcohol become serious issues for teens when they find that they cannot control their cravings. Once it has reached this point their behavior falls under the category of drug or substance abuse.

Symptoms of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Parents should become concerned if they notice the following symptoms in their youngster:

  • Frequent red eyes
  • Frequently using eye drops
  • Frequently feeling unwell
  • Drop in academic performance
  • Unusual behaviors
  • Increase in irritability or irrationality
  • Having new friends who have little to do with the child’s normal social activities
  • Finding rags or papers soaked with chemicals
  • Finding paint or other stains on clothing, hands, or face (which may mean your teen is inhaling vapors)

Types of Substances Most Commonly Abused

Illicit drugs:

  • Marijuana- most common
  • Crystal meth
  • Heroin
  • Cocaine

Prescription drugs:

  • Painkillers such as Codeine, Oxycontin, and Demerol- most common amongst younger teens
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin or Dexedrine- most common amongst older teens and college students
  • Depressants such a Nembutal, Valium and Xanax
  • Cough suppressants such as Nyquil

Household products (effects of which are accessed through inhaling – “huffing”):

  • Paint thinner
  • Gasoline
  • Nail polish remover
  • Deodorizers
  • Glues
  • Spray paint
  • Cleaning fluids

Alcohol and tobacco are also very commonly abused drugs.

Consequences of Substance Abuse
The effects of substance abuse can be severe. Both direct and indirect consequences are possible. For instance, intoxication can lead indirectly to death through motor vehicle accidents that occur while under the influence and intoxication can lead directly to death by causing cardiac arrest. Here is a list of some of the frequent consequences of substance abuse:

  • Alcohol and drug abuse is a main cause of teen death or serious injury associated to car accidents
  • Violent behavior
  • Brain damage
  • Unplanned pregnancy and STD’s including HIV’s because of unprotected sex
  • Suicide
  • Becoming outcast from family, friends and society
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Financial and relationship issues

Assessment and Treatment Options
Once you suspect that your teen may be abusing substances, you should have him or her professionally assessed. Most localities have a substance abuse hotline that can help you find a substance abuse treatment center and other facilities and resources that can help you. You can also ask your doctor for such a referral. Try to find a professional and/or a facility that specializes in abuse in order to obtain the most accurate assessment and treatment plan. If your teen is found to have a substance abuse disorder, you will probably want to arrange for individual psychological counseling as well as a specific substance abuse treatment plan. Psychological counseling can help your youngster uncover specific stresses that have lead to addiction and can also help him or her learn to manage such stresses in a more healthy way in the future. The substance abuse treatment plan will help him or her to become free of the addiction and maintain sobriety. Here are some common types of substance abuse interventions:

  • Outpatient Treatment – There are several different treatments that fall under this category. Intensive outpatient (IOP) treatments are treatment programs that are usually two to four hours every evening for four or five days a week. Another is partial hospitalization and day treatment which involves the addict going to a treatment facility during the day and be a part of the rules of the treatment and then go home at night.
  • 12-step programs-  Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are popular self help programs which involve 12 steps to overcoming addictions
  • Non 12-step programs– There are other self help programs that do not involve 12 steps such as Rational Recovery  or S.M.A.R.T
  • Residential treatment– Residential treatment centers are therapeutic and structured environments that first starts with withdrawal and helps the patient deal with the withdrawal symptoms. This approach usually has both individual and group counseling. It also consists of exercise and other activities that reduce stress such as yoga, and acupuncture

Helping Your Teen
Parents may think that their kids will get the best anti-drug education from programs and school. However, this is not true and recent studies have shown that the most effective type of drug education comes from parents who talk to their kids openly about this issue. The biggest favor a parent can do for their teen is be a good role model.

Other Tips and Important Information for Parents

  • Although there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and drug abuse, environmental factors (stresses) are what initially trigger these issues.
  • Kids who are supervised more often are less likely to do drugs.
  • Since teens who feel like they don’t fit in “with the crowd” are more at risk, parents can try to help their isolated teen join structured productive activities to reduce isolation (such as sports, drama clubs, speaking clubs, part-time jobs, creative activities and so on).
  • Kids who grow up around heavy drinkers are at risk.
  • Family activities can also be preventative (i.e family trips, projects, visiting relatives, home-based activities and so on).
  • The public library often contains many colorful, teen-friendly books on every aspect of alcohol and drug abuse – bring such books home sporadically throughout the teen years (just leave them lying around) in order to provide information and to remind your kids of the dangers in substance abuse (without you personally having to lecture them).

Education, a healthy model and effective stress management skills can go a long way toward preventing teen substance abuse. However, parents are not the only factor in this syndrome. Even the best parents cannot necessarily prevent their kids from falling into substance abuse patterns. However, being informed and open-eyed can allow parents to take EARLY steps to help their addicted child. Early intervention will often be faster and more successful than treatment that occurs when addiction is well entrenched. However, even when the child has a more severe case of substance abuse, parents should not despair. Being supportive and part of the recovery process is one way that they can really help set their teen on a healthier, substance-free road for life. Parents whose children are involved in 12 step programs can be supportive by joining the 12 step programs that are specifically designed for family members. Parents whose kids are in therapy can also access therapy for themselves to help reduce any potentially harmful familb-based stress patterns. In other words, the more involvement in the recovery process, the better. Teens can recover from severe substance abuse disorders and go on to live successful, addiction-free lives.

Teen Stress and Addictions

Everyone has stress, tadalafil including teenagers. In fact, teenagers face many of the same stressors that adults face. For instance, they tend to have money issues (on a smaller scale), relationship issues, health issues and sometimes work issues. However, they have more issues than adults have to deal with: self-concept issues (trying to establish an identity, dealing with body image), intense peer pressure, academic pressure, family pressure (including the pressure of their parents’ marriage, issues with siblings, dysfunctional family dynamics) and the physical pressure of their changing bodies. Although teenagers have additional stress, they actually face extra challenges in managing stress. For instance, they lack life experience and will therefore be prone to errors in judgment that lead to increased stress. Their problem-solving style is impulsive, their world view is egocentric (self-focused) and they feel a grandiose sense of invulnerability—all of which further contributes to errors in judgment that increase stress. As a result of these characteristics, teenagers will be learning a lot of lessons “the hard way.” They will experience higher levels of pain as a result. Unfortunately, most teenagers lack healthy stress-management strategies. This is why they are so vulnerable to addictive behavior.

Addiction and Stress
Addictive behavior occurs in all of us, although we do not always identify it as such. When we think of the word “addictions” we tend to think of the major unhealthy addictions such as drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and caffeine (the latter being considered a harmless social addiction). However, people can also be addicted to shows of rage, judging people, eating, not eating, exercising, watching T.V., reading books, playing video games, surfing the net, relationships, sex, work and crossword puzzles! In fact, people can become addicted to almost anything. Addictions provide intense distraction from inner feelings. When people don’t know how to relieve the distress of internal emotional pain and stress, they can distract themselves by indulging in their favorite addictive activity. All of us do this to a certain extent. However, when our favorite activity involves and illegal substance or a life-threatening activity or when they take so much time that they block out other necessary activities, others usually step in to help. Unfortunately, the help often focuses on curing the addiction and treating all of its harmful effects. The underlying feelings that triggered the addiction are usually ignored! For this reason, the addiction (either the same one or another one) will most likely return.

Helping Teens Manage Stress
Rather than focusing attention on curing and preventing addictions, we must help teenagers to better manage their stress. Consider teaching your teen to follow these tips to reduce stress:

  • Talk to a counselor or guidance counselor once a week about whatever is happening – social scene, academics, parents, family life, work or any issue of concern. A trusted adult or a very wise mature friend can also be used for this purpose.
  • Exercise daily. Including stretching and/or yoga in exercise routine.
  • Have a relaxation period each day: use imagery, visualization, progressive relaxation or meditation as a DAILY time-out for at least 10 minutes and preferably much more than that.
  • Get enough sleep every night (6-8 hours).
  • Use the hour before sleep to unwind.
  • Keep a journal.
  • Only keep healthy friends; stay away from toxic people.
  • Read psychology self-help books for teens.
  • Balance social time with private time: have a little of each during each week.
  • Search the net for information on the situations you are facing.
  • Read the book “Focusing” and learn how to use this technique to calm feelings.
  • Learn EFT (emotional freedom technique); look up www.emofree.com
  • Use Bach Flower Therapy instead of substances to calm your nerves (see www.bachflowers.com).

Parents Can Help Too
When parents master the art of Emotional Coaching (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe) they can be almost as effective as professional counselors for their adolescents. The skill involves an empathetic naming of and accepting of the teenager’s feelings. No criticism, no reaction, no upset, no lecture—no corrective information—can be offered. The parent simply listens and acknowledges what the youngster seems to be experiencing. When conversations happen this way, teenagers will actually speak to their parents. Parents can then help teens process pain related to social problems, school problems, personal appearance issues, feelings of loneliness, feelings of anxiety and so on. In fact, as long as the parent remains a calm, non-judgmental listener, the child can talk about the most personal, frightening or overwhelming subjects. This isn’t easy for parents, of course, because parents themselves get scared and upset when listening to their teenagers describe their thoughts, feelings and actions. However, the technique can be learned and practiced by anyone who really wants to be a part of his or her teenager’s stress management program.