While it is a scary subject to consider, parents need to be aware of the increasing rates of drug and alcohol use in middle school and high school aged students. Confronting any substance abuse issues early and with compassion could be the key to preventing a long-term problem.
Why Should Parents Be Concerned?
In 2017, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NAD) released results from its Monitoring the Future survey, which focused on drug and alcohol abuse by young adults. That report revealed some enlightening facts:
- Marijuana use by young adults is on the rise, with 13.2 percent of respondents indicating daily or near daily use – rates higher than those reported for college students.
- Vaping marijuana presents a new concern, with 7.8 percent of young adults reporting use in the month prior.
- Alcohol use was reported at 56.4% for young adults.
- Students in middle school and high school reported smoking cigarettes at significantly higher rates than college students.
The above data makes it clear that there is an important role for parents to play in preventing substance abuse starting as early as middle school.
What Can Parents Do?
First, it is helpful to understand why your teen may be turning to unhealthy substances. The NAD has some helpful resources on this topic and provides several potential reasons, including to fit in and to increase feelings of positivity.
The good news is that there are many proactive steps parents can take to help their child understand and avoid substance abuse. Start by keeping an eye out for these warning signs:
- Increased secrecy and instances of lying;
- Decreased ability to focus;
- Notable mental changes, including changes in mood, loss of interest in activities, withdrawing from long-time friends, and increased anxiety or irritability; and
- Physical changes such as notable weight loss or gain, appetite changes, and changes in sleeping patterns.
If you notice any warning signs in your teen, ensure that you establish open lines of communication with your child. This will help you positively influence your child's relationship with addictive substances. We understand, however, that this problem can often be too big to tackle on your own, and Niznik Behavioral Health is here to help. As a national provider of behavioral health services for adolescents, contact us now to learn about what resources are available near you.