Teen Drug Abuse


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Created at12 August 2021
Update19 March 2023

How to spot teen substance abuse?

How to react to your child  drug abuse or binge drinking? 

Teen Drug Abuse

Teen drug abuse is recognized by the World Health Organisation as a big emerging problem. Psychologist Asli Basabak Bhais of NPISTANBUL Brain Hospital, which is affiliated with Uskudar University, shared her medical opinion this topic.  


Signs of teen drug abuse

Half of all drug users experiment with drugs and other psychotropic substances in early adolescence. What should parents know about teen drug abuse and how to communicate with a child before the problem starts? The psychologist Asli Basabak Bhais states that parents should be proactive and pay attention to behavioural patterns of their children. There are certain signs, which should make parents alert and heedful of what their children are doing, the signs are as follows: bad grades at school, bloodshot eyes, loss of interest in activities and hobbies, poor hygiene, frequent “munchies”, the smell of alcohol or smoke on breath or clothes, unusual tiredness, missing curfew, aggressive behaviour, new friends and peers, increasing expenses, or rapid mood swings.


What should be avoided?

As we have said, parents should act proactively in talking to their teen to find out the truth. It is also a fact that many teens experiment with drugs, but they are not addicted. The easiest way to deal with a problem is to detect it at the early stage. Only one in five parents are likely to intervene to prevent further drug use of their children. Therefore, it is highly recommended to speak honestly with your child and to ask straightforward questions in the right tone. Teens need to feel loved and supported. Further, parents should reassure their children that they are concerned and want to help. Needless to say, adults must not lash out, otherwise, teens will not seek the help and assistance of their parents in any case, not just related to drugs or alcohol. We should not forget that there are plenty of other disturbing life issues faced by teenagers on a regular basis.  


In case of untruthfullness

Teen drug abuse is not an issue of a child, it is a family matter, first of all. There are numerous steps parents and family members need to follow in order to end an emerging problem before it turns out a catastrophe. Initially, family members should avoid judging, lashing out, accusing and blackmailing. The sentences like “How dare you…?”, “How come…?” “We have sacrificed everything for you!”, “You are a spoiled child!”, “Shame on you!” must be avoided in any case. Those thoughts and negative feelings will do no good. Lashing out and overreacting might prevent a teen from opening up about his or her experience. Parents and family members should talk with a teen in a good manner and ask compassionate and understanding questions. Before you seek a professional psychiatric help, you need to gather some information: when your child started experiementing with drugs, since when, involvement of his or her friends in this, drug effects.


Understanding drug abuse and its reasons

When we talk about avoiding blackmailing, lashing out and overreacting, we as psychologists do no mean that you as parents need to agree on this situation. It is go without saying, you should not encorouge the use of durgs, at the same time, you should not accuse, punish or judge your child. A successful conversation implies clearly stating out your viewpoint and expressing your eagerness and readiness to help at any expense. In order to understand the underlying reason of teen sbustance abuse one needs to seek a professional psychiatric and psychologic help. This will be a half of success. As you have probably understood, the overall parents’ reaction and behaviour is of vital importance. 


Professional help and preventive actions

It is always easier to correct a potential risk and problem than to actually cope with it. That is why, the first way of teen drug abuse awareness should be prevention. So, what are we as parents able to do? Firstly, it is necessary to be aware of your child intersts and hobbies, if it is sports or painting, music or science. Children need to have a meaningful part of their lives apart from their school, exams and family matters. This will not only prevent your child from spending his or her spare time wrongly or hramfully, but to develop new skills and to achieve, consequently, a success. However, if drug abuse has happened or you suspect untruthfullness of your child, there is always a way to uncover a teen drug abuse by performing a toxicological test. On one hand, we should remember that many teens, unfortunately, experiement with drugs, but the majority of them are not addicts. On the other hand, addiction can be diagnosed only by a doctor, thus, this is a brain disease, which cannot be treated at home on your own. Naturally, addicts think that they are able to cope with cravings and obsessive thoughts, but this is not true. Teenagers’ impulse control hasn’t fully developed, therefore, they cannot curb drinking or taking drugs. Besides, children might think that a little marijuana or alcohol can offer relief. So can prescription drugs and over-counter medications, because they also have intoxicating effects in high doses.    


First quit than refrain 

The psychologist Asli Basabak Bhais continued, “There are two variants of overcoming and treating substance abuse. The first one includes admission to hospital, the second one is designed as outpatient service. If a patient is diagnosed with an addiction, he or she is not able to reduce drugs intake, his or her actions cary risk for their family members and friends, if there are obsessive thoughts and drug cravings, doctors recommend hospitalisation. While admitted to a hospital, the patient is being guided, controlled and treated by medical staff.” Admission to a hospital includes, first, detoxification of a body. Second, medications that prevent drugs intake and cravings, reduce abstinence syndrome are prescribed. Along with that, patients take cognitive-behavioural and occupational therapy sessions, benifit from other facilities offered by a rehabilitation center. Staying away from the harmful environment is also a great deal, which helps patients not only to quit but also to refrain from psychotropic drugs in the future. One should not forget, the earlier an addiction is recognised, the easier is to treat and overcome it.