While your genes, mental health, family and social environment all play a role, risk factors that increase your vulnerability include:. Fact: Prolonged exposure to drugs alters the brain in ways that result in powerful cravings and a compulsion to use. These brain changes make it extremely difficult to quit by sheer force of will. Fact: Short-term medical use of opioid painkillers can help to manage severe pain after an accident or surgery, for example. However, regular or longer-term use of opioids can lead to addiction. The brain changes associated with addiction can be treated and reversed through therapy, medication, exercise, and other treatments.
Fact: Recovery can begin at any point in the addiction process—and the earlier, the better. The longer drug abuse continues, the stronger the addiction becomes and the harder it is to treat. People who are pressured into treatment by their family, employer, or the legal system are just as likely to benefit as those who choose to enter treatment on their own. As they sober up and their thinking clears, many formerly resistant addicts decide they want to change. Fact: Recovery from drug addiction is a long process that often involves setbacks. While frequency or the amount of drugs consumed do not necessarily constitute drug abuse or addiction, they can often be indicators of drug-related problems.
If the drug fulfills a valuable need, you may find yourself increasingly relying on it. You may take illegal drugs to calm or energize yourself or make you more confident. You may start abusing prescription drugs to relieve pain, cope with panic attacks, or improve concentration at school or work. To maintain a healthy balance in your life, you need to have positive experiences and feel good about your life without any drug use.
Drug abuse may start as a way to socially connect. People often try drugs for the first time in social situations with friends and acquaintances. A strong desire to fit in to the group can make it feel like doing the drugs with them is the only option.
Problems can sometimes sneak up on you, as your drug use gradually increases over time. Smoking a joint with friends over the weekend, or taking ecstasy at a rave, or painkillers when your back aches, for example, can change from using drugs a couple of days a week to using them every day. Gradually, getting and using the drug becomes more and more important to you.
As drug abuse takes hold, you may miss or frequently be late for work or school, your job performance may progressively deteriorate, and you may start to neglect social or family responsibilities. Your ability to stop using is eventually compromised. What began as a voluntary choice has turned into a physical and psychological need.
Eventually drug abuse can consume your life, stopping social and intellectual development. This only reinforces feelings of isolation.
While each drug produces different physical effects, all abused substances share one thing in common: repeated use can alter the way the brain functions. This includes commonly abused prescription medications as well as recreational drugs. With the right treatment and support, you can counteract the disruptive effects of drug use and regain control of your life.
The first obstacle is to recognize and admit you have a problem, or listen to loved ones who are often better able to see the negative effects drug use is having on your life. Although different drugs have different physical effects, the symptoms of addiction are similar. If you recognize yourself in the following signs and symptoms of substance abuse and addiction, talk to someone about your drug use.
Neglecting responsibilities at school, work, or home e.
Using drugs under dangerous conditions or taking risks while high , such as driving while on drugs, using dirty needles, or having unprotected sex. Experiencing legal trouble, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support a drug habit. Problems in your relationships, such as fights with your partner or family members, an unhappy boss, or the loss of friends. You need to use more of the drug to experience the same effects you used to attain with smaller amounts. You use to avoid or relieve withdrawal symptoms.
If you go too long without drugs, you experience symptoms such as nausea, restlessness, insomnia, depression, sweating, shaking, and anxiety. Loss of control over your drug use. You may want to stop using, but you feel powerless. Your life revolves around drug use. Drug abusers often try to conceal their symptoms and downplay their problem. Marijuana: Glassy, red eyes; loud talking, inappropriate laughter followed by sleepiness; loss of interest, motivation; weight gain or loss. Stimulants including amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth : Dilated pupils; hyperactivity; euphoria; irritability; anxiety; excessive talking followed by depression or excessive sleeping at odd times; may go long periods of time without eating or sleeping; weight loss; dry mouth and nose.
Hallucinogens LSD, PCP : Dilated pupils; bizarre and irrational behavior including paranoia, aggression, hallucinations; mood swings; detachment from people; absorption with self or other objects, slurred speech; confusion. Heroin: Contracted pupils; no response of pupils to light; needle marks; sleeping at unusual times; sweating; vomiting; coughing, sniffling; twitching; loss of appetite. In recent years, prescription drug abuse has become an escalating problem, most commonly involving opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and stimulants.
Many people start taking these drugs to cope with a specific medical problem—taking painkillers following injury or surgery, for example. However, over time, increased doses are needed to achieve the same level of pain relief and some users can become physically dependent, experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they try to quit. One of the earliest warning signs of a developing problem is going through the medication at a faster-than-expected rate. In other cases, people start abusing medication not prescribed for them in order to experience a high, relieve tension, increase alertness, or improve concentration.
Being aware of any signs of dependency can help identify prescription drug problems at an early stage and help to prevent them progressing into an addiction. Opioid painkillers including OxyContin, Vicodin, Norco : Drooping eyes, constricted pupils even in dim light, sudden itching or flushing, slurred speech; drowsiness, lack of energy; inability to concentrate, lack of motivation, decline in performance at work or school; neglecting friendships and social activities.
Anti-anxiety medications, sedatives, and hypnotics including Xanax, Valium, Ambien : Contracted pupils; drunk-like, slurred speech, difficulty concentrating, clumsiness; poor judgment, drowsiness, slowed breathing. Stimulants including Ritalin, Concerta, Adderall, Dexedrine : Dilated pupils, reduced appetite; agitation, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, high body temperature; insomnia, paranoia.
If you suspect that a friend or family member has a drug problem, here are a few things you can do:. Now that we can see inside the brain, we know that all sorts of substances and activities can change the circuitry of the brain and become addictive. There are so many factors involved in the flourishing of an addiction. Anything that adds to that feeling will increase the chances of a substance becoming addictive.
The Harvard Medical School notes that the social and environmental context in which someone uses a drug will have an influence on the way someone experiences the drug.
The release of hormones or neurochemicals that make an experience more pleasurable, will add to the potential of that substance or activity becoming an addictive one. Drugs are highly addictive, and more likely to cause addiction because they have direct access to the reward centres of the brain and can very quickly cause changes that lead to addiction. Occasional use or experimenting can quickly spiral into drug abuse or addiction. Here are some of the signs to watch out for. Many of these will just be a normal part of being a teenager and each of them separately can be explained by something other than drugs.
They might also be a sign of a bigger problem. The main things to be wary of are changes from what you have come to know as normal for your teen, or when you see more of these signs starting to emerge. It is understandable that you might want to take a tough love approach, but the potential for this to drive your teen further into a drug culture is enormous. The more you criticise or judge your teen, the more they will move away from you and towards the people who really understand them — their drug buddies. It always starts out as a one-off. One moment. One decision.
One inhale. One drag. One pill.
Learn About Teen Drug Use
One go. Nobody starts out intending for it to be the beginning of something bigger. And nobody expects to lose control. If your teen is a regular user, he or she is an important money maker for someone. If they are an occasional user, they represent great potential to that someone. Your teen will be getting his or her supply from someone — a dealer — and it is in the interests of that dealer to make sure your teen keeps coming back for more.
If you suspect your teen is using regularly, name the possibility that the dealer might entice them to try something harder. They never intended for you to find out, not to be deceptive, but because they never wanted to disappoint you. Let them know that you believe in them and that you understand how easily this can happen. Initially, there will be more reasons for them to lie than there will be for them to tell the truth.
For them to give up the information you need, they need to trust that you can deal with it. Let them know that there is nothing they can say or do that will get them into trouble. This is about responding to the situation and guiding them, not punishing them for it. There is a complicated matrix that comes with drug use.
A Substance Abuse Guide for Parents
The experience is never just about the drug. Use of a drug often comes with a whole sub-culture of its own — new relationships, new feelings of pleasure and power, relief from uncomfortable feelings or pain. Drug use can happen in any family. No family is immune and it is ignorant and arrogant to think otherwise.
The most loving, connected, healthiest families can find themselves in this situation. Some of these conversations will go as planned and some will spin wildly out of control. Have an idea of what you would like to achieve from your conversation, but keep it realistic. There is no point having the conversation when your child is under the influence. The part of his or her brain that will be receptive to the information and able to engage with you on that level will have been sent temporarily offline.
It will just be frustrating for both of you, with huge potential for things to get heated. Your brain will be running on impulse and instinct, overwhelming the part that is able to bring clarity and sensibility to the table. Have your evidence ready. Let them know that nothing they say can get them into trouble as long as they tell the truth.
Drug use affects everyone who knows or loves the user. As the adult who loves them, this will affect you whether they like it or not. Drug use never affects one person, but only one person has the power to stop it doing damage. As long as they are using, you will be living with the fear and the unknowns of what it is doing to them. They have a right to their privacy, and you have a right to the truth.
When it comes to possible drug use, truth will always trump privacy because of the safety concerns that come with it. Let them know that moving forward, you will respect their privacy as long as you can feel sure that they are telling the truth, and giving you the information you need to keep them safe. This is about keeping them safe. Acknowledge and respect their need for freedom, but in return they need to acknowledge your need to know they are handling that freedom safely and responsibly.
This is completely understandable — at this stage, denial will meet more of their needs than an admission. Acknowledge that it might not be a problem, but that you just want to explore things with them. Here are the questions. What have you noticed? Mood, friends, behaviour, physical, activities etc. Acknowledge for now that there may not be an addiction or a problem, but that you would like to see certain behaviours increased e. Work out a plan that includes boundaries and consequences for crossing the boundaries.
They expect freedom and independence, you expect them to be responsible with that independence and freedom. Work out a contract. What do you want? The truth? What do they want? What has to stop? Drug use? What are the consequences for using? For violence? For breaking the rules that you both agree to? Depending on the age of your teen, you will have control of at least one of these, possibly all of them.
When you work out your plan, make sure these are involved. Your teen will say you have no right to take any of them away.
Teen Drug Abuse
If your teen gives you what you are asking for no drug use, honesty, respect etc — you decide , let them have some of what they want their phone, time with friends. You might decide to put an end to certain things, such as sleepovers, until you are confident there is no risk to your teen. The idea is to use these three things — money, phone, opportunity as currency to get what you want, because up to now, they have certainly been using these things to get what they want. However hard they push, you have it in you to push harder — and you will, but ultimately the size of the push will be up to them.
When you step between your teen and their habit, they might amp things up to get some control back. They might become more abusive, more resistant and more difficult. What it means is that your teen is feeling the edges of your boundaries. They will scream louder and louder until they realise their screaming is useless. Your teen is the same.
This is why the contract is important, as is having your teen on side as much as you can. As much as you can, avoid the tough love approach. This can increase shame and push your teen away from you and towards their peers who will be infinitely more accepting of them and their drug use behaviours. This will be especially strong in your teen, who is already wired to find their independence from you.
You will need to work with this, not push against it. Listen to your teen and ask questions that will encourage them to look at their behaviour. The idea here is to get them thinking about some of the issues that they might be avoiding thinking about. Go gently:. What seems to drive them to use it more?
Put the focus on their choices and their responsibility for their actions and the consequences that come from that. This will also support the idea that if they are capable of making the choices they are making around their drug use, they are very capable and strong enough to make choices around stopping it. The idea is to get them to realise themselves what their drug use is doing.
Alcohol and drugs
Your teen is using drugs to fulfil a need, probably several. The needs will be valid ones, but using drugs will always be a disastrous way to meet them. Help your teen find other activities that are challenging, engaging, maybe a little risky, and that give them a sense of meaning or belonging. It will be much easier for them to give up the drug when there is an alternative way to meet their important needs. Exercise is a natural stress-reliever and anti-depressant, and has been proven to ease the symptoms of anxiety.
Your teen needs understand how important the memory systems in the brain are for triggering a craving and the drive to use. Here is the explanation for them:. Over time your brain becomes used to a drug and the drug stops producing the same feelings of pleasure. This memory feeds the craving. When drugs flood the brain with dopamine a part called the nucleus accumbens , the part of the brain involved in memories the hippocampus stores memories of the drug and everything associated with it. It has really strong memories of how quickly and intensely that combination of things brought pleasure.
The memories help to create a powerful craving whenever the person comes across the things that remind them of how good the drug felt. This might be the people, the instruments, the place or anything else associated with the times they take the drug.
Teens Need the Truth About Drugs - WSJ
In time, anything that reminds a person of taking the drug can be enough to activate the same craving as the actual substance. This is why addictions are so hard to change, and why one of the first steps to quitting drugs is letting go of as many things as you can that remind you of the drug or how good it felt when you took it. If your teen takes the same backpack when he or she uses the drug, for example, encourage them to get rid of it. Baby steps.