How Do You Know Your Teenager is on Drugs?

As a counselor who works with teens and parents, this is one of the most common questions I am asked. Parents often struggle with this issue because the natural mood swings and personality changes that are a part of the teen years can make it difficult to determine if their child is acting normal or needs help. They are also hesitant to ask difficult questions because they don’t want to damage their relationship with their teen by accusing them of taking drugs.  Maintaining a relationship built on trust can be an important part of successfully navigating the teenage years and it only takes one misstep to demolish the foundation of that trust. Parents may be hesitant to approach their teens when they are concerned because they don’t want to alienate them or push them further away.

In order to know when to be concerned, when to ask questions, and when to intervene, you need to know the facts. Here are the common signs of teenage drug use.

1. Changes in Social Circles
One sign that parents should be watching for is a significant change in their child’s friends or social circles. If your teenager has been friends with the same kids since elementary school and suddenly shifts to an entirely different set of friends, this may be cause for concern. First, look for other factors like joining a new club, or playing on a sports team that may explain an influx of new friends. Changes in social circles or standing by themselves are not always indicative of drug use, but parents should pay attention to these types of changes as they can point toward several teenage problems.

2. Changes in School Participation
Another thing to watch for is the development of a negative attitude about school in general. This includes spending less time and effort on school work and home work, skipping classes, and grades that are going down.

3. Changes in Personality
When teenagers begin using drugs, they often become more secretive and are touchier about privacy and having their own space. Signs of these behavior changes include getting angry if you are in their room, unwillingness to let you borrow their cell phone, refusing to leave their backpacks or school bags where others could access them, or offering vague answers about where they are going and who they are spending their time with.

4. Changes in Aromatic Usage
If your teen suddenly develops the need to burn incense or use room deodorizer on a regular basis, but doesn’t seem more concerned with cleaning their room, they may be trying to hide the smell of smoke or other odors. Intensified use of body spray or perfume is also a sign that something may be amiss.

5. Changes in Financial Needs
One indication that your teen may be using drugs is an increased need for money. This may be evident because of an increase in their requests to borrow money, offers to work around the house for cash, or money disappearing from purses and wallets. Teens that become suddenly invested in selling or pawning things like video games and other electronics may also have a problem that needs parental attention.

Parents and their involvement in their teenager’s lives are still the best deterrent to drug use. Providing a supportive environment with clear expectations helps set the stage for drug-free teen years. But it is equally important to know the signs that your teen is in trouble and how to help them through whatever problems they are facing.

 

by Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC
Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Sources:
http://www.theantidrug.com/ei/
http://www.theantidrug.com/ei/signs_symptoms.asp

Harper, Trina


 

Trina HarperTrina Harper, Office Manager

Trina has over 25 years’ experience in office management services. She has been involved in adolescent and women’s ministries through her church and Young Life throughout her adult life and brings a gift of compassion to her work at Doorways.

 

A – – Hamilton, Jan

Jan Hamilton, DoorwaysJan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Jan Hamilton is the Founder and President of Doorways.  She is a Nationally Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in adolescent treatment. Her desire is to provide quality psychological and psychiatric care for adolescents and young adults in an outpatient, faith-based setting has led to the opening of Doorways in 2008. Jan is a Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna approved provider.

Eating Disorders Treatment, Phoenix Christian Counseling, Doorways, Arizona

How Social Media is Affecting our Teens

How Social Media is Affecting our Teens-

Since computers starting coming into the home and video games left the arcade, parents have expressed concerns about how much is too much and how these virtual interfaces will impact the lives of our children over the long term.  For years, the main concerns around overuse of electronic media have centered on physical activity levels, studying, and the effect of violent, sexist, and racist themes on young minds.   Recently I was asked my thoughts on the impact things like Facebook, Twitter, and video games are having on today’s youth.  My answers might surprise you.

One of the main problems that I see is an increase in teens and young adults with significant social anxiety problems that seem to stem from spending too much time interacting with a computer and not enough time interacting with actual people. This is especially pertinent for teens that are in the 12 to 15 year old range that are actively developing and refining the social skills that will help them throughout their lives.  The more time a child spends in isolation posting on Facebook, playing Xbox, chatting online, texting, and watching YouTube videos, the less time they spend interacting with their peers and families.  These real-world interactions are necessary for developing social skills, understanding social protocols, and building interpersonal relationships.

What Parents Should Look For

  • Parents should trust their instincts and if they are concerned there might be a problem, seek the opinion of a professional.
  • Parents also need to make the distinction between what is normal behavior and what is healthy behavior.  Your son might spend 12 hours a day playing video games which seems normal when compared to his friends, but most health professionals would agree that even if it is normal, 12 hours of video game play in a day is definitely not healthy.
  • Watch for resistance to social situations and avoidance of social interactions.  If your child is having a significant emotional response to a situation that requires social interaction, there may be a social problem that needs to be addressed.

What Parents Can Do

  • The most important step parents can take is to start young.  Set expectations and ground rules about media use early in childhood which will help your child develop good habits as they grow into teenagers.
  • Provide multiple social outlet opportunities for your children through church, community, sports, and educational activities.  But, beware of over-scheduling; children need downtime too.
  • Don’t accommodate their anxiety; it’s ok for them to be uncomfortable in social situations because they are learning how to manage those types of interactions.  Giving in and allowing them to avoid socializing only reinforces the avoidance behaviors.

 

“Help! I Can’t Talk to My Teenager, He Says I Don’t Understand!”

By: Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC

Every parent who has ever had a teenager understands this feeling.  It is a topic I get asked about a lot and a frequent topic in family therapy.  As teenagers grow, one of the fundamental changes they are making is the formulation of their own identity, separate and distinct from that of their parents.  In former centuries, this change more closely coincided with actual changes in circumstances as well, like getting married, striking out on their own, or taking on more adult responsibilities.  Even so, there were probably quite a few shouting matches and just as much misunderstanding between parents and their teenagers as there is today.

Communication is the key to helping our teenagers navigate the often rocky path between childhood and adulthood.  Unfortunately, the very nature of that change creates significant challenges and barriers to communication.  In order to keep the communication channels open, parents need to take charge of keeping them clear.  Here are 6 things that will help you communicate better with your teen.

1.      Communication is more than Words

Remember that there is more to communicating than just the words that come out of your mouth.  Your teenager is attuned to the subtle and silent messages you send with your body language and the tone of your voice.  If these messages don’t match, your child will interpret what they think you really mean and respond accordingly.

2.     Watch What You Say

Most teenagers have heard what you are about to say a hundred times.  They can tell by the circumstances, your body language, and the tone of your voice what is coming and if it is old news or an unwelcome message, they may tune it out.  Pay attention to all the messages you are sending and look for ways to impart the same message without wandering into a well-known battlefield.

3.     Listen

Communication is not just about talking or educating the other person or convincing them that your point of view is right.  Communication is about a two-way exchange.  You need to learn to listen, to truly listen, to what your teen is saying before you can learn to communicate with them.  Too often, parents tune out their kids as well, only hearing the things they want to hear or using the time their child is talking to think about what they are going to say next.  Listening to your teenager is the most empowering thing you can do.

4.     Trust Your Parenting

Trust in the foundation you provided them and give them room to make choices, fail, and then learn from their mistakes.  Believe in the guidance and education you instilled in them.  Don’t lecture. Focus on listening and allow them to make decisions for themselves.  Bolster their belief in themselves by showing them you believe in their ability to make good decisions.

5.     Be a Curious Observer

One of the reasons teenagers feel so misunderstood is that their lives, bodies, hormones, and relationships are in a constant state of flux.  You can help them through these challenges by providing validation that they are OK, that they are good people, and that what they are going through is normal.  To do this, you must be curious about their lives, ask open-ended questions, and then listen to what they have to say.  But you must only be an observer; you cannot force openness and you shouldn’t use curiosity to spy or pry into their lives.

6.     Watch Out for Transference

Remember that your child is not you.   If you have issues to work through, take the initiative and work through them yourself, don’t assume your child is going down the same path you did or that they will make the same mistakes you made.  You don’t want to  limit their freedom to find their own path, make their own mistakes, and learn to live with the consequences that result because of your own fears or guilt about your past.  The healthier you are, the better you are able to let go when you need to.

 

About Jan Hamilton, MS, PMHNP-BC

Jan is a nationally Board Certified Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner who specializes in adolescent treatment.  She earned her Master’s of Science and Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner certification through the University of Arizona. She then worked for over eight years at Remuda Ranch providing inpatient services for adolescents and adults suffering from eating disorders. Jan has been a registered nurse for 31 years and worked in a wide variety of medical settings, including 30 years of serving young people through her work with Young Life, an interdenominational outreach program. Her desire to provide quality psychological and psychiatric care for adolescents and young adults in an outpatient, faith based setting has led to the opening of Doorways in 2008.