No, not all kids choose to experiment with substances. Although, many of them fall under the false perception that "everyone is doing it". This allows kids and teens to believe that experimentation with substances is low risk. The reality is that all people are affected by substances differently. Some young people are able to experiment with substances and then put them down, but many others become addicted very early on in their use of substances. Especially today, because the substances available to kids are so much more potent and concentrated than they were years ago.
Actually, most adolescents who experiment with substances have a difficult time quitting on their own. They often will attempt short periods of sobriety to convince themselves that they are not addicted. These short windows further inhibit their denial about drug or alcohol addiction. Often times, young people have a hard time recognizing they are addicted because they don't fit the incorrect stereotypes they have been taught about the disease and they typically haven't experienced an abundance of negative consequences for their use. Beginning a non-confrontational dialogue with your child will help you determine if you need assistance from a professional counselor or other support.
Open communication is important in any relationship, especially with teenage children. Confronting your child about substance use is never easy; however, it is incredibly important so you can assess the problem. Be prepared to express to your child how you feel about their behavior and allow them to experience and deal with whatever consequences you choose to enforce. It is also important to have a plan in place prior to your conversation. Please call us at KED to schedule an appointment for our Early Intervention Program if you have any suspicions your child is using drugs or alcohol.
It is a normal response for parents to want to protect or rescue their child, but as the dependency on drugs or alcohol becomes more severe, parents need to utilize all the community supports that are available, including the legal system. Teenagers are often resistant to help initially. Using the legal system (family court or drug court especially) as leverage to gain compliance with treatment can be one of the most helpful resources a parent can use. Fortunately, most of our communities have drug court programs that hold teens accountable and compliant to treatment but also provide an opportunity for charges to be reduced or dismissed upon successful completion of the drug court program.
Parents should trust their instincts because they are usually right. Sometimes, teens who are using will lie and manipulate in order to protect their drug use. They begin by stealing small amounts of money that often go unnoticed, and as their dependency on substances becomes more intense they become more desperate and often start stealing jewelry and valuables. It is also typical for the desperation to lead them to shoplifting and breaking into cars and homes in an effort to find valuables to sell or pawn. Many teens incur legal charges as their addiction grows.
Many times, red flags of substance abuse are the same as typical teenage behavior. When these behaviors are isolated it is typically not a concern. However, when several behaviors are present together, it usually reason to be concerned. Typical indicators of substance abuse include poor hygiene, mood swings, loss of interest in sports or activities, poor school or workplace attendance, and a change in friends.
The substances that are available to teens today are totally different from what was available to you when you were your child's age. Both alcohol and marijuana products are much more concentrated than they were years ago. Kids are very attracted to alcoholic beverages like Johnny Bootlegger and Four Loco because they are fun, fruity flavors and are not difficult to drink quickly. Marijuana today has over double the THC concentration it had in the 1960's and 1970's and a lot of Marijuana that is sold today contains other drugs or fillers to make the high more intense. Because these substances are so concentrated, it is not untypical for teens to seek out more powerful, physically addictive substances like Opioids and Cocaine after they begin to develop a tolerance to the Alcohol and Marijuana. It is best for parents to institute a "No Use" or "Zero Tolerance" policy within their home.
Vaping is definitely not harmless. Unfortunately, teens have been led to believe that vaping is safe because it is frequently discussed and marketed as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes. While vaping may be safer than smoking cigarettes that does not mean that it is safe! Many of the juices that kids are vaping contain a lot of dangerous chemicals. They also frequently contain high levels of nicotine even when the packaging states it is nicotine free. Vape devices are also commonly used for other substances such as synthetic drugs and THC concentrates.
Juuling refers to a specific type of vape device known as a Juul. The Juul device is very intentionally designed to look just like a flash drive, or USB storage device. In addition to being very easy to hide, the Juul has small little pods that attach to the end that contain a very concentrated nicotine liquid. One tiny little pod contains the same amount of nicotine as an entire pack of cigarettes! The device sells for only $34.99 and the pods are sold in a 4 pack for only $15.99. The Juul is known as "the Apple of the vaping world". It is by far, the most popular vaping device among teens!