The most obvious indications of drug or alcohol abuse are signs of intoxication, smelling alcohol or drugs on their breath or clothing, or finding alcohol, drugs, or drug paraphernalia. Changes in your child’s previous behavior can be another important sign:
- School performance such as decline in grades, decreased motivation to complete assignments, lack of interest in school activities, or skipping classes.
- Personal habits such as sleeping much more or much less, change in activity level, increase or decrease in appetite, or hygiene.
- Behavior and/or mood changes such as increased irritability, aggression, disregard for rules, mood swings, depression, decreased motivation, expressing suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
- Decreased involvement in positive social activities such as team sports or school activities, and/or loss of interest in a favorite hobby.
- Association with a new peer group, gang involvement, or legal problems.
The adolescent brain is different from that of an adult which leads them to behaviors that put them at much higher risk. Early intervention upon drug and alcohol use is crucial to ensure healthy adolescent brain development.
- The part of the brain that is located above the eyes, the brain’s “stop system” is responsible for controlling impulsive behaviors. It weighs the consequences of actions so that a person can make rational decisions.
- This part of the brain is one of the last parts to fully develop, and doesn’t reach maturity until the age of 25. Therefore, adolescents lack the wiring in their brains to reconsider behaviors that are too risky.
- Drugs and alcohol further impair a person’s ability to make decisions. Combining these chemicals with an adolescent brain that is not able to weigh consequences can be harmful.
- Late adolescence, before the brain is fully matured, is the peak time for developing a dependence to these chemicals.
- Heavy drug and alcohol use during times of critical brain development may cause permanent changes in the way the brain works and responds to rewards and consequences.
- Therefore, it is critical to address a developing substance use problem as early as possible.
It is not your fault that your child may have a problem, but you can get them help so their problems do not result in something more serious. Jackson has a variety of programs available for children, including classes, outpatient treatment, and residential treatment. Call us today and we can help you determine what’s best for you and your child.
Here are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:
- Be an involved parent—Research shows that parental support, monitoring and involvement in a child’s life is an important protective factor against adolescent drug and alcohol use. Involvement in a child’s school reduces behavioral and academic problems and also helps parents know their children’s friends and their friends’ parents. This helps parents connect and network with other parents in monitoring their own children’s activities as well as those of their peer group.
- Open and honest communication—Open, honest, and respectful family discussions about behavioral expectations and consequences can reduce the risk of adolescent drug and alcohol use. These conversations should include attitudes and family rules about drugs and alcohol.
- Get the help you need—The majority of us have had a family member or a close friend who suffers from addiction. You may be suffering yourself. When this happens it is important to get professional help.
- Early access to help—Early evaluation and treatment can help reduce the risk of your child developing more serious problems.