Many moms worry that their teenage or young adult children are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. They may believe that their child is in danger of developing a substance abuse problem and take steps to discover or stop the behavior before it’s too late. The reality is that, although many teenagers and young adults will be exposed to legal and illegal substances, not many take steps to try them and even fewer will become addicted. Despite the concerns of parents, many teenagers and young adults may be experiencing other issues that they do not want to discuss with their parents that do not involve illegal substances. Some may be worried about their grades at school, have problems with friends or romantic interests or even be discovering their own sexuality.
However, for moms who do have a child who is suffering from a drug or alcohol problem, there can be a lot of pain and suffering involved in this difficult time. Feelings of guilt, sorrow, anger and fear of what their child is doing and why they are harming themselves are often experienced. For moms, the thought of their teenager using drugs or alcohol can be heartbreaking. Many parents do not want to believe that their child could be involved in a lifestyle that is dangerous, harmful and dirty. A mom may go through a range of different feelings including guilt, sorrow, anger and fear about what their child is doing and why they are potentially harming themselves.
When a child is using drugs or alcohol, they may go through changes to normal behaviors, appearance, social groups or in the workplace. Although some of these changes may be attributed to normal growing up and maturing, there are some clear signs that a child is using. Concerned parents may note some of the following indicators that substance abuse is happening;
* Changes in relationships with friends and family members
* Seeming withdrawn, depressed, secretive or unstable
* Exhibiting unusual behaviors, such as hyperactivity, excessive sleepiness, poor coordination or slurred speech
* Secretive mobile phone and computer use
* Hiding of alcohol or drug paraphernalia including eye drops, lighters and matches, pipes and rolling papers
* Unexplained smells or damage to vehicles
* Medication disappearing from home medical kits
Changes in Appearance and Actions
* Poor hygiene
* Dark circles around eyes, red eyes
* Dilated or pin-prick pupils
* Sloppy clothing, lack of concern for appearance
* Teeth clenching
* Consistent smell of smoke on breath and clothing
* Increased use of incense, scented candles or air freshener
* Frequently sick with flu-like symptoms
* Sudden weight changes
* Excessive sweating
* Vomiting and nausea
* Unexplained injuries and bruises
* Sores on face and arms
Work and School Issues
* Drop in performance at work or school
* Loss of interest in extracurricular activities
* Complaints from employers or teachers
* Problems with peers or school friends
A worried mom may wonder what they can do or how they can deal with a child who is potentially experimenting or abusing drugs and alcohol. It is a very sensitive issue and one that needs care, caution and patience. Many parents believe that dealing with this problem in a heavy-handed manner and grounding a child can make them stop. But in most cases, this approach will push a child further away from the love and care that they may need to help them stop the substance abuse. Concerned parents should look for signs that may indicate that there is a problem rather than simply accusing a child of taking drugs or drinking alcohol.
Approaching the issue of drug or alcohol abuse can be a very difficult situation. At a very basic level, it is important to ask outright if a child is using and show them that you are concerned. A worried mom can often approach this issue with tears, anger and frustration, but it is important to avoid this. It is good to remember to have a conversation rather than a confrontation with a child. Be direct but not angry when asking questions and be prepared to listen to the answers respectfully. If a parent reacts to the knowledge that their child is abusing drugs or alcohol in an angry and aggressive manner, they may risk losing the opportunity to get help for the child when it is most needed.
Before bringing the issue up with a child, a mom should be sure that she is confident and calm and has some evidence to support her claims. This is not to suggest snooping around and ignoring the privacy of the child for the sake of finding proof. An instinctual feeling, a change in behavior, problems at home or school can all be used to raise the issue. A parent should offer support, care and assistance in whatever way is needed. It’s useful to have the details of a medical facility, psychiatrist, counselor or even a youth group specializing in substance abuse problems on hand.
There are many reasons that a child may develop a substance abuse problem. Peer influence, genetic factors, mental illness, impulsiveness and risk taking behavior and social anxieties all can all contribute to drug and alcohol abuse. If a child has a family history of addiction and substance abuse, statistics reveal that they may be at a higher risk of developing an addiction themselves. Drug and alcohol use by friends and peers can also prompt a child to experiment, which can ultimately lead to addiction. Mental illness including depression, anxiety and schizophrenia are known factors that lead to substance use. Each of these factors and more can all lead to abuse and it is important for parents to be aware of their own child’s risk factors and be prepared to take steps to intervene at the appropriate time. Getting help for a mental disorder early can make a significant improvement to a child’s risk of developing an addiction. Education can also play a large part in deterring a child from using, especially if they are aware of their family risk factors. Parents should be open, honest and, most of all, supportive to children, ready to help them if the issue arises.