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.

Helping Teens Who Hurt Themselves

Self-injurious behavior is any action that is intended hurt one’s own body. Teens engage in all sorts of self-injurious behavior, vialis 40mg including cutting their body, vcialis 40mg hitting themselves, dosage burning themselves, pulling out their hair, picking at their skin, poking at themselves and so on.

Why Do Kids Do It?
A teenager may use self-injury after a devastating or stressful event. The young person doesn’t always know how to deal with deeply troubling feelings in a healthy way.  Physical injury acts as a visible representation of emotional (internal and invisible) pain. It can also show others, without the use of words, that nurturing and solace is needed. Unfortunately, the act of self injuring only provides temporary relief, and once the physical wound heals the emotional pain returns full force.

More Reasons for Self Injury
Self-injury is often used to end the painful sensation of emotional apathy or numbness. It “wakes” a person up and allows some sort of feelings to flow again. Emotional numbing is an automatic defense process that occurs to people who have been badly emotionally wounded. For instance, many victims of physical, sexual or emotional abuse experience periods of numbing (sometimes alternating with periods of emotional flooding).

Moreover, the guilt and confusion that can occur from childhood abuse is often overwhelming. Sometimes adolescents “punish” themselves for being “bad” assuming that they must have deserved the abusive treatment they received. Self injury is then a form of self-abuse that is consistent with the youngster’s self-concept.

In addition, causing oneself pain can be a way of “taking control” of one’s situation. Sometimes a teenager feels very out of control, either due to abuse or due to other stresses. By initiating a physical injury, he or she has stopped being a helpless victim of circumstances. Instead of waiting for lightning to strike and burn them, these children strike the match themselves. In a superstitious sort of way, they might also think that the injury can prevent something worse from happening in their lives.

Teens also quickly discover that their behavior can control those around them. People react. Parents may stand up and take notice, seek therapy, feel guily. Friends may give extra attention or they may back off. The teen creates a tumult. It is a minor victory over helplessness.

Who Hurts Themselves?
Today, many kids hurt themselves. It is a social phenomenon. Once a teenager discovers a friend who engages in self-injury, she is more likely to try this form of communication herself. The most likely candidates for self injury include those whose expression of emotion (particularly anger) was discouraged during childhood, those who have a limited social support system, and those who have other mental health diagnoses such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), eating disorders, substance abuse and depression.

What are the Most Common Ways that Teens Hurt Themselves?

  • Cutting – When one makes cuts or scratches on their body with sharp objects such as knives, needles, razor blades or fingernails. The most frequent parts of the body that are harmed are the arms, legs, and the front of the torso because they are easy to reach and can be concealed under clothing.
  • Branding – When one burns themselves with a hot object or, Friction burn which is rubbing a pencil eraser on one’s skin.
  • Picking at skin or reopening wounds (Dermatillomania) – This is an impulse control disorder which is recognized by the constant impulse for one to pick at their own skin. It is usually done to the point that injury is caused which acts as a source of gratification or stress reliever.
  • Hair Pulling (trichotillomania) – An impulsive control disorder which appears to be a habit, addiction, or an obsessive compulsive disorder. It involves pulling hair out from any part of the body. When hair is pulled from the scalp the results are patchy bald spots on their head. Usually they wear hats or scarves to cover up their baldness. Irregular levels of serotonin or dopamine play a possible role in hair pulling.
  • Bone breaking, punching, or head banging – Usually seen with autism or severe mental retardation.
  • Numerous piercings or tattoos – Can be a self injurious activity if it involves pain and/or stress relief.

Is Self-Injury a Suicide Attempt?
When a person causes injury upon themselves it is usually done without suicidal intentions, yet there have been cases where accidental deaths have happened. When a person self injures they do it as a means to reduce stress. People who self injure themselves usually possess a faulty sense of self value and these harsh feelings can whirlwind into a suicidal attempt. Often the intentions of self harm can go too far and it is at that point where professional intervention is necessary.

How to Help a Self Injurer:

  • Understand that self injurious behavior is a need to have control over oneself and it is a self comforting act
  • Show the person that you care about them and that you want to listen to them
  • Encourage them to express their emotions, especially anger
  • Spend quality time doing activities that are pleasurable
  • Help them seek out a therapist or support group
  • Avoid judgmental remarks

How Can Teens Help Themselves?

  • Realize that it is a problem and that there are probably issues that are hurting on the inside that need professional guidance
  • Realize that self harm is not about being a bad person, rather understanding that this behavior which is seemingly helping is becoming a significant issue
  • Seek out a mentor that can help. This could be a friend, Rabbi, minister, counselor, or relative or any other person you feel comfortable talking to about this issue
  • Seek help to understand what triggers these behaviors
  • Understand that self inuring behaviors are a way to self calm and learn better ways to calm yourself

Treatments for Self Injury
Psychotherapy is recommended for kids who hurt themselves. Sometimes medication will also be helpful. A psychological assessment by a qualified mental health practitioner can determine the most appropriate course of action in each case. Here are some of the common treatments for teens who self injure:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy. This helps a person understand why they hurt themselves in healthier ways.
  • Therapies that deal with post traumatic stress disorder such as EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing)
  • Hypnosis or self-relaxation
  • Group therapy which helps minimize shame, and helps express emotion in a healthy way
  • Family therapy which can trace back to history of family stress and helps families deal with their family member who self injures in a non judgmental way. It also teaches them how to communicate more effectively with each other and reduces parent-child conflicts and relationship difficulties.
  • Antidepressants or anti anxiety medications to reduce the impulsivity of the of the action while the self injurer is going for therapy
  • In critical situations, a self injurer needs to be hospitalized with various approaches along with a team of professionals

Do Teens Recover From Self-Injury?
Yes! With proper treatment, the prognosis is excellent. Self-injury can be the crisis that brings a family to therapy. This is often a turning point in the family’s life, helping not only the self-injuring teen, but also other members of the family to reach higher levels of emotional well-being than ever before.

Out-of-Control Teens

Some teenagers are model citizens. This article is not about them. This article is about those teens who are acting out – the ones who talk back to their parents, dosage swear at them, act aggressively when upset, have no respect for rules or curfews, do what they want when they want, engage in addictive, destructive, illegal or immoral behavior and otherwise distress their well-meaning parents terribly. It is also about those teens who are “acting in” – those with depression, eating disorders, cutting behaviors and other self-destructive patterns. All of these children frighten, worry and dismay their parents. Why do they behave this way? What can parents do about it?

Out-of-Control Parents
Many out-of-control teens trigger out-of-control behavior in their parents. Because of their intense fear, hurt and helplessness, many parents of out-of-control teens become enraged and display their own version of temper tantrum behavior. In an effort to regain control, some dole out irrational negative consequences like “life-long” loss of privileges or “life-long” grounding. Even if they manage to use more reasonable consequences, many use too many or make them too intense for the crime. The result is a very negative relationship in which the adolescent loses all motivation to please the parent or cooperate in any way. The troubled relationship actually fuels more adolescent pain and more troubled behaviors. The last thing a struggling adolescent needs is an out-of-control parent.

How to Help Troubled Teens
The first step for parents it to maintain total control over THEMSELVES. Parents should let their adolescents know that they are starting a SELF-improvement program: no more yelling, tantrumming, insulting or other disrespectful behaviors. The parent will remove all behaviors from his or her own repetoire that would be unacceptable if the teen engaged in that behavior. For instance, if the parents want the teen to stop yelling, the parent will work on removing yelling from his or her own behavior (the same applies for any other similar behavior such as, unpleasant tone of voice, nasty facial expressions, unkind words, stomping & slamming, etc.). After a month of working on his or her own behavior, the parent can begin to help the teen make similar changes using a similar technique. The teen may be inspired by the model of the parnts. The parents have shown their own willingness to help make things better and they have shown that they can be successful. The teen may be more willing to get with the program when the parents have led the way.

The self-improvement program works like this: the parents promise themselves and their child that each unacceptable parental outburst will be followed by a parental consequence. For instance, when a parent yells, he or she can immediately sit down to write a page of lines to the effect of “I can control myself even if I feel upset.” or “I speak respectfully at all times even when I am upset” and so on. After the first week or two of this consequence, the parent increases his or her lines to two sides (one full page, both sides) and after three or four weeks, to three sides, continuing to make increases until all unacceptable parental behavior stops. If it starts up again at a later date, even months or years later, the parent begins the consequence system again.

Another equally important strategy for parents is to lay the foundation for adolescent change. They can do this by practicing the 90-10 Rule. This rule states that 9 out of 10 parental communications need to feel pleasant to the child. Pleasant feeling communications include things like smiles, compliments, weather reports, gifts, treats, jokes, gentle touch (if wanted), interesting neutral conversation, acknowledgement, good quality listening, naming feelings, having pleasant interactions with other family members within earshot of the teen and so on. One out of 10 communications can be “business-oriented” such as giving instructions, making requests, setting a boundary (using discipline if necessary). When the 90-10 Rule is followed, teenagers automatically become calmer and more cooperative, less rebellious and more interested in pleasing. Their own emotional difficulties settle down a bit. They even cooperate more with discipline when it is required.

More Help for Out-of-Control Teens
Parents can be empathetic toward teens without accepting their abusive behavior. Once parents have brought their own behavior under control, they must insist that their teens work on theirs as well. They will live by the rule “I only give and accept respectful communication” (“I do not give nor do I accept disrespectful communication.”) Using quiet, respectful discipline, the parent can invite the teen to create appropriate consequences for behaving in disrespectful ways.

Troubled teens may really benefit from and appreciate other interventions. Bach Flower Therapy is a harmless treatment that can reduce anger, stress, anxiety, hurt, loneliness, despair, depression and all other painful emotions. Both parents and teens can use this form of treatment to help clear and heal the troubled feelings that prompt out-of-control behaviors. You can find more information on Bach Flower Therapy online and throughout this site.

Professional help can be of tremendous benefit to both parents and teens as well. Even if the adolescent refuses to go to therapy, parents will find that the support and strategies offered by a mental health professional can make a huge difference in their family life.

These are some of the ways we can begin to help our hurting kids. Remember that you are the adult – you must show the way. Patience and love will help a lot. Keep envisioning your troubled teen moving through and beyond these years to a very positive outcome. This optimistic picture wilil help you survive the turbulent times and do your best when it is hardest. It will counteract the anxiety that causes you to over-react or “forget” good parenting skills. The truth is that most kids turn around at some point and become very pleasant, well-adjusted adults – just like you!

Internet Porn

Teens are a curious bunch. They want to learn about everything – particularly everything sexual. In today’s world, information about sexuality is available everywhere. And nowhere is it more available than on the Internet.

Kids spend a lot of time on the internet – often in the privacy of their own bedrooms. Even if they are innocently doing their homework on the computer, ads will pop up, inviting them to explore intriguing sites. At some point, even though their parents may have cautioned them, they are likely to follow the ads into the dark world of pornography.

Distorted Sex Education
Sex is a powerful biological drive. When kids start to experience sexual pleasure from the visual stimulation on the internet, they can become quickly addicted to it. Even if they feel guilty or even if they feel disgusted by what they are seeing, they can be overpowered by the chemicals releasing into their bloodstream as they form an association between physical pleasure and the images they are viewing.

Of course, the first images a teen may watch may be comparatively mild. Perhaps younger teenage boys will start by wanting to see pretty girls in scanty outfits. This may lead to sites of girls and boys being together in various ways. Eventually, more detail will be wanted, more variety and eventually more perversity. Visual sex is not like actual love-making between caring adults. It affects the brain differently. More like a cocaine habit than a human relationship, visual sex needs more and more to give the same amount of pleasure: escalating images are required to maintain the sense of pleasure. It is no longer sufficient to see a pretty girl; in the end, gross and de-humanizing sexual images will be required to satisfy the viewer.

Future Problems
A young person who gets into the habit of seeking sexual satisfaction on-line can form a chemical addiction to the activity. Hooked in the developmental years, the person will find it extremely difficult to stop later on. When there are the inevitable marriage problems in adulthood, he will turn to his self-soothing computer habit. When money is tight, the in-laws are coming, the children are overwhelming – the computer can offer escape and stress relief.

Spouses do not always support the computer habit. In fact, many marriages fail because of a partner’s “love” of the computer. Computer sex can destroy real intimacy and real relationships.

Guiding and Protecting Teen
Yes it’s a jungle out there, but it needn’t be in your home. Parents can still create the kind of home environment they want – it is still their home. Frank discussions with teens about computer porn and its enduring consequences can help teens take responsibility for their own health and happiness. Parents can share their thoughts, their values and their wishes for their youngsters. By opening discussion they can show that sexuality is a family value, not a perverse activity. They can show that they are committed to those values by letting the kids know that they will create “clean computers” – by putting porn-proofing filtering programs on the computers in the home. The kids need to know that the parents have a log of every site they’ve visited. Parents need to be parents still, supervising, caring for and guiding their kids right into their late teens. Having computers in the common living spaces such as living rooms and kitchens is also a protective measure that parents may be able to take.

Parents need to show leadership in this vital area of a child’s well-being. Although the kids can still do what they want to at their friends’ homes and elsewhere, the parents are sending a clear message that can have a powerful effect. Moreover, by keeping a clean environment at home, parents are helping to break the addiction cycle if only by slowing down access to the computer “drug.” Ultimately, teens will grow up and decide for themselves how to use their free time, but till they leave home, parents must do their best to expose them to the values that promote long term health and happiness.

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.