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Topic: Current Drug Trends affecting our Kids
Speaker: Jason Klarer, LAC, Licensed Associate Counselor
-What are some common drugs your kids might be exposed to?
-Is Marijuana really harmless?
-How could you tell if there is a drug problem with your kid?
Jason is a licensed counselor who specializes in substance abuse issues, mood disorders, co-occurring disorders (dual diagnosis), and faith based counseling. He received his Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Northern Arizona University and went on to work for the Phoenix Rescue Mission- treating individuals who struggle with addiction and poverty. Jason has significant knowledge and experience of recovery and formerly oversaw the various recovery ministries of Vineyard Church North Phoenix. Jason uses a Person Centered Theory approach which incorporates CBT, Mindfulness, and Motivational Interviewing. When not working, Jason enjoys playing basketball with his son, reading, and serving the homeless population.
Did you know that almost 50% of high school seniors have tried an inhalant or illicit drug at least once in their lives? Here’s another alarming stat – more teenagers die from having abused prescription drugs than those who have used cocaine and heroin.
Neither of these stats read well for teens growing up in today’s world.
As parents and guardians, the responsibility of keeping teens and young adults safe is enormous. And while one can argue that substance abuse has been an issue for past generations of teens and young adults, the challenge today is very different and far more complex than say, even a decade earlier.
Some of these challenges include:
- Marijuana strains available today are far stronger than those available in the earlier years.
- An influx and easy availability (online purchase) of designer drugs such as ketamine and synthetic drugs such as Spice.
- Revival of the heroin culture.
- Marijuana has been made legal across many states.
- Increase in abuse of pain medication.
- Prescription drug and over-the-counter medication abuse on the rise.
The Modern Social and Personal Life of a Teenager is Highly Complex
It is a universally accepted fact that teenage years are difficult. Young teens are under immense pressure to meet certain standards, to “fit-in,” and often, they struggle to find their own space and establish their identity.
The open nature of today’s media, of which social is a big part, is a major contributor to skewed and unrealistic expectations and pressures that today’s teens face in their personal and social lives.
The social life of a teenager today is complicated to say the least. Add to that the fact that their exposure to the world is very different; they are competing and trying to stay relevant not just among their school peers, but also on social platforms.
Many face a lot of negative sentiment and experience bullying not only at school, but also online. Without a strong support structure to back them, many buckle under the pressure of meeting these standards.
The result is that many teens develop a negative impression of their lives. This often cascades into a negative body image, depression, and low self-esteem leading many turning to drugs.
Of course, some teens use drugs to experience a thrill and end up getting addicted. Sometimes substance abuse is a result of their social conditions or surroundings, family history, or abuse.
Why should you be worried?
The danger comes when a teen becomes addicted. Addiction is a medical condition with specific symptoms. Addiction can eventually lead your teen to experience erratic or harmful behavior, eating disorders, anxiety disorders, violent and suicidal tendencies, as well as serious health conditions.
Overcoming Mental Addiction is the Bigger Challenge
Addiction is a medical condition in which the brain craves certain substances, leading to an impulsive and uncontrollable dependence on the substance even though the substance is harmful.
And although someone fighting an addiction problem might be able to control their physical craving for the drug, it is in fighting the mental addiction that they face their biggest challenge. The brain can carry the mental addiction well into adulthood.
The Dangers of Drug Abuse Among Teens
If your teen is addicted to drugs, or even if you suspect your teen might be using illegal substances, the most important thing is to not ignore it. The last thing you should do is dismiss the behavior as a “phase.”
Some of the dangers of substance abuse include:
- Lower IQ, especially among teens who use marijuana before the age of 18.
- Developing mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety, and increased risk of developing schizophrenia.
- Developing physical health conditions because of impaired growth hormones, brain development, and organ function.
- Increased tendency to become violent and dangerously aggressive.
- Inability to maintain and develop relationships or live in established social structures.
- Sudden and drastic dip in academic performance.
- High probability of becoming juvenile delinquents.
Treatment for Substance Abuse
Successful treatment for substance abuse involves a combination of behavioral, family, group counselling, and psychiatric intervention.
Our treatment plan takes on a comprehensive approach to help a teen overcome their addiction problem, while also addressing and treating any of the mental and physical conditions the teen might have developed because of the substance abuse.
Finally, we work with the teen to help them develop an emotional, relational, and spiritual balance in their life. This is done with the aim of ensuring the teen can go back to his normal life in the present and to be able to plan and build a future life as well.
We know this arena!
Unfortunately, teen substance abuse, including abuse related to prescription drugs, is a big problem currently. Parents may approach this in a variety of ways, some of which are more effective than others. Ineffective methods may only make things worse and cause unnecessary conflict between you and your teenager. So, if you suspect there is some substance abuse issue going on, here’s some advice on how to approach this.
- Acknowledge the Problem
You may be reluctant to face up to the fact that your teen could have a drug abuse problem, even though the signs of it lie right before your eyes. You may tell yourself things like “They’re just experimenting a little – it’s no big deal,” or “They just tried it once, but it’s not like they’re an addict.” Instead of doing your best to ignore the situation and hoping it will just go away, you need to conduct intentional conversations with your adolescent about the very real dangers of substance abuse.
- Be Your Teen’s Parent, Not Their Friend
It’s very likely that your adolescent has succumbed to peer pressure and that some of their friends are encouraging them to do drugs. Right now, your teenager needs a parent, not another friend. Yes, it’s necessary to invade your teen’s privacy by searching their room, car, and belongings for drugs and to explain to them they need to get help. You need to behave like a parent because your adolescent isn’t in a position to make the best decisions for themselves right now.
- Discuss the Issue When Your Teen is Not High
If your teen arrives home from a party and is obviously high, it won’t be productive to confront them when they’re incapable of listening to a reasoned conversation. Be patient and wait for a more appropriate time to talk about your concerns when your adolescent can be coherent and fully present for the discussion.
- Talk About the Problem When You’re Calm
I’m sure your discovery of your teenager’s drug use is eliciting a varied range of emotions – anger, fear, disappointment. It’s important to try not to let these feelings guide your conversations with your teen. Letting your discussions deteriorate into yelling matches won’t help – your adolescent will only become defensive and shut down. It’s much better to remain calm and talk to them about the changes you’ve observed in them and how concerned you are. You want to come across as a source of support rather than of guilt or shame.
- Acknowledge Any Family History
If there is a history of drug abuse in your family, try to educate your teen about their possible genetic vulnerability toward drug dependency. If you have personal experiences with recovery from substance abuse, share them with your adolescent. Don’t conceal valuable knowledge you’ve gained from experience in an effort to maintain a perfect family image. Your teen can learn from family mistakes, but only if you share them.
Where to Get Help for Teen Substance Abuse in Phoenix
If you think your adolescent has a substance abuse problem, it’s not something to ignore. You need to take action, have conversations with your teenager about their drug use, and make it clear that it’s a big deal. If you find you can’t cope on your own, Doorways is here to offer professional support for you and your teen. Arrange an initial no-charge consultation with us so that you and your adolescent can get the help you need as soon as possible.
The 2017 Monitoring the Future (MTF) study of drug use and attitudes among teens found that the use of illicit drugs other than marijuana is at its lowest level in over two decades. The figures are as follows:
- 8 percent among 8th graders.
- 4 percent among 10th graders.
- 3 percent among 12th graders.
However, just because these figures are lower than in years past is no reason for complacency. The percentages show that some adolescents are still using nonprescription and prescription drugs of one kind or another.
How Easy is it for Teens to Obtain Drugs?
As a parent, you may be surprised to learn that teenagers often find it easier to get drugs than to acquire alcohol. Of course, every parent wants to prevent their teen from getting a hold of these harmful substances, so it helps to know how teens manage to acquire drugs so easily. Below is a review of where adolescents find it possible to get drugs.
Most homes have medicine cabinets containing drugs of various kinds. It’s easy for a teen to take a few pills from a bathroom cabinet or the cabinet of a friend’s house. New drug experimenters in their early teens are more likely to try prescription drugs than any other kind of drug. They may find they can get a quick high with Xanax or OxyContin. It’s a good idea not to hang on to leftover prescription pills and to keep your medicine cabinet locked.
- How Teens Get Addicted to Drugs – Unfortunately, if adolescents continue to use these drugs, they need higher and higher dosages to achieve the same effect, and this eventually ends up as a full-blown drug dependency. As a parent, you should pay attention if you find you are having to refill your prescriptions faster than you expect.
Most parents are unaware that many drug transactions take place on school premises where teenagers sell drugs they have acquired to others. At school, teens may be able to access a large pool of different drugs provided by teen distributors operating under the radar of school authorities.
It should come as no surprise that a number of drug vendors take advantage of the internet.
- The Dark Web – The dark web is the encrypted “underworld” of the internet that cannot be accessed without special software or authorization. Despite the takedown in 2013 of a very active online drug marketplace called Silk Road, similar shady websites remain alive. Today’s teenagers are tech-savvy, and many understand how to access the dark web in order to purchase drugs online.
- Online Pharmacies – Outside of the dark web, the internet is full of pharmacies that offer drugs for sale illegally, many of them based outside of the U.S. Adolescents can go online and order a wide choice of prescription medications that are shipped in discreet packaging.
The Dangers of Online Drugs
A teen can have no idea whether the drug they have purchased is what they intended to acquire. Moreover, many of these businesses are not selling what they claim to be selling. If they are only selling sugar pills, this is just harmless fraud. However, they could be selling potentially deadly medications – there is no way that an adolescent can know the actual dosage strength of a medication purchased online, making overdosing a real possibility.
Where Can I get Help in Arizona for my Teen with a Drug Addiction
If you suspect your adolescent has a drug abuse problem, talk to Doorways. We can recommend resources to help you and your teen. Adolescent drug abuse is a serious problem, and you need the help of trained professionals. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Drinking alcohol commonly begins in the teenage years. Alcohol has become an alarmingly common component of teenage and college parties. Unfortunately, underage drinking is on the rise because many teens are not waiting until they reach the legal drinking age of twenty-one. Many adolescents regard alcohol consumption as just a way to have a good time and are unaware of the damaging effect it can have on themselves and how it might impact their families, their communities, and their futures. In fact, underage drinking is rightly regarded as a widespread public health concern.
How Many Teens are Drinking Alcohol?
Alcohol is the drug of choice for many high school students. The 2017 government Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) asked high schoolers about their alcohol consumption during the prior thirty days and published the following results:
- 33% had imbibed an alcoholic drink. This represents an increase since 2015 and reverses the downward trend of the previous decade. Among these students, about 50% drank on one or two days; and 25% drank on three to five days.
- 17% had engaged in binge drinking at least once.
- 5% drank ten or more consecutive drinks within a couple of hours.
To read the full report on alcohol consumption by high school students, click here and scroll down to page 56. The alcohol statistics are taken from the national YRBS study.
What Causes Teens to Become Addicted to Alcohol?
It’s generally accepted that addiction to alcohol does not result from just one cause; rather, it comes about through a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and physical risk factors. The most well-regarded theories about alcohol addiction include:
- Peer influence – if using alcohol and getting intoxicated is acceptable and encouraged in a teen peer group, a group member has a higher risk for developing alcoholism.
- Genetics – Adolescents who have a close relative with an alcohol addiction are four times more likely to develop an addiction than their peers without a similar family history.
- Family influence – teenagers who live in homes in which alcohol is freely available are at greater risk for abusing alcohol.
- Effect on the teen brain – Repeated use of alcohol can actually change the structure and function of the still-developing brain of an adolescent and result in an addiction.
- Stress – Teenagers suffering intense personal stress may turn to alcohol usage as a way to cope with the pressures of their daily lives.
What are the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on Teens and Young Adults?
Whatever the reason for alcohol abuse, one thing is crystal clear – alcohol intoxication has serious long-term ramifications which include the following:
- Increasing inability to pay attention, leading to a decline in academic performance.
- Long-lasting difficulties with memory.
- Masking of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.
- Potential to combine alcohol with other drugs such as marijuana or to lead to the usage of hard drugs like cocaine or heroin.
- Risky sexual activity or becoming the victim or perpetrator of sexual assault.
- Danger of a serious vehicle accident while drinking and driving or being a passenger where the driver has been drinking.
- Suicide attempts.
- Serious health risks. In particular there has been a spike in liver disease among young adults.
How Can I tell if my Teen or Young Adult is Abusing Alcohol?
The signs of alcohol abuse will vary greatly based upon the amount and frequency of alcohol consumed, whether other drugs are also used, and individual genetic makeup. The most common signs of alcohol abuse in young people include the following:
- Drastic decline in academic performance.
- Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities.
- Sudden, inexplicable need for money.
- Increased interpersonal conflicts.
- Unusually passive or argumentative behaviors.
- Changes in sleep patterns.
- Deterioration in personal hygiene.
- Glazed, bloodshot eyes; flushed skin.
- Slurred or garbled speech; problems with coordination.
You may not be able to smell alcohol on a young person’s breath or clothes. Young people know that vodka does not have a smell, and they may hide an alcohol aroma by mixing alcohol with fruit juice, soda, etc. If you think your teen may be drinking alcohol, you should check any beverage bottles that they take to school.
Where can I Get Help for Teen and Young Adult Drinking in Arizona?
If you are the parent of an adolescent or young adult with a drinking problem, you may not know what to do. At Doorways we have trained counselors who are experienced in dealing with alcohol problems in the 13-25 age group. If your teen or young adult is drinking, this is a serious problem so don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us – there is no charge for an initial consultation.
Summer is just around the corner and many parents worry about what they are going to do with their teenager to keep them out of trouble in the summer.
Adolescence in and of itself comes with a greater likelihood of alcohol use, but there are some factors that increase the risk of a teen abusing alcohol. One of the best ways to help teens avoid this behavior is to equip parents with knowledge of the issue and specific methods to protect and educate their teens.
Everybody Is Doing It
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, underage drinking accounts for over 4,300 underage deaths annually. It is also a factor in over 189,000 emergency rooms visits by people under age 21 for injuries and other conditions. This is a real issue facing real teenagers in every social circle. Surveys indicate that underage drinking is an issue among all races and socioeconomic levels. Simply put, your zip code and family history does not doom you or shield you from the dangers of underage alcohol use. Pretending the issue doesn’t exist, or thinking your child would never make such a reckless choice, is a recipe for disaster.
Kids Will Be Kids
Kids are curious and social and like any human, want to be liked and accepted. Curiosity is not a bad thing. Being social is not a bad thing. However, these are definitely factors in why so many young people choose to partake in alcoholic beverages before reaching the legal age to do so. Yes, kids will be kids. Parents and guardians just need to know that part of being a kid is exactly what makes one more likely to drink, which leads to a number of other dangerous behaviors and situations. Knowing that kids will be kids, parents must be parents. Set boundaries. Keep an open dialogue and be willing to provide alternate activities for your teen and their friends.
Keep Talking. Keep Listening.
Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about the dangers of alcohol. Brief but frequent conversations about alcohol can make a significant impact on your teen’s ability to resist peer pressure. Keeping an open dialogue also creates a safe and more comfortable environment for your teen to ask questions or express concerns about the issue. As much as you speak with your teen about alcohol use and abuse, be sure to listen. Give them opportunities to open up about their own opinions regarding alcohol and other substance abuse. Allowing them a safe place to speak increases their likelihood to “just say no.”
Draw A Line in the Sand
In the midst of worrying and talking and listening, be sure to make your viewpoint clear. Make sure your teen knows that underage drinking is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated in your home. Set reasonable but firm expectations. Keep your message consistent and set consequences ahead of time. Being honest up front sets the stage for other “real” conversations. Be a parent first, friend second.
The statistics are startling and can easily make parents want to bury their heads in the sand. Resist the temptation to flee. No matter what challenges your child is facing, talking to them can literally make the biggest difference. Face the issue head on and know that you can be the driving force in keeping your teen from using alcohol.
1. Marijuana Slows Adolescent Brain Development
Apart from what happens to the brain before birth, there is more significant brain development during adolescence than at any other developmental stage. The brain has a natural endocannabinoid system that has a significant part to play in brain development. This system is adversely affected by marijuana use.
2. Kids Get Really High
Adolescents have a higher ratio of cannabinoid receptors (known as CB1) in their brains than adults. The chemical component in marijuana that causes most of its psychological effects is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). THC binds to the CB1 receptors in a teenager’s brain and stays there longer than in an adult. While THC remains in the receptor, it blocks the processes of memory and learning. Dr. Frances Jensen is a Neuroscientist and author of The Teenage Brain. She was interviewed by Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air and stated that prolonged use of marijuana between the ages of thirteen and seventeen could result in permanent brain changes.
3. Pot Today is More Potent
Studies of the average THC concentration in cannabis show that levels have been steadily rising from about four percent in 1995 to approximately 12 percent in 2014. Biological Psychiatry found that strains of marijuana are currently being grown with 17-33 percent THC, on the principle that higher THC concentration means a more profitable product. What also makes today’s pot more potent is that twenty years ago marijuana had higher levels of cannabidiol (CBD) which is non-psychoactive and responsible for the medical benefits of marijuana. But, growers are breeding it out of recreational marijuana because it prevents users from getting as high as they would without the CBD. The end result is that these higher THC levels are much more harmful to the developing adolescent brain.
4. Marijuana Can Have Long-Lasting Effects
Exposing the brain to marijuana during adolescence can slow down brain maturation and eventually cause neurobiological changes that will affect brain function in adulthood. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) published the results of a 2014 study that looked at the long-term effects of the use of marijuana during adolescence. The study concluded that early marijuana use causes adverse effects on intelligence, cognitive functioning, and emotional behavior, and increases the risk of the development of psychotic disorders. What’s more, the damage may be irreversible.
Parents, Talk to Your Kids
Based on survey results from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, seventy-one percent of high school seniors do not view “regular marijuana usage” as harmful. Many kids see (and smell) adults getting stoned at concerts, and now, just walking down the street. It’s easy to see how they might assume that pot use is just harmless fun. Even though it’s reassuring to know that most teens don’t smoke cigarettes because they understand the health dangers, it’s time to make clear to them that marijuana use is also risky. Talk with your kids regularly about the risks that marijuana poses.
Are you are worried that your teen is using marijuana regularly and don’t know what to do about it? Our specialty lies in helping families with teens and young adults, so contact us to find out how we can help.
How to Spot Early Warning Signs of Drug or Alcohol Use in Teens
Utilize your sense of smell.
Have a conversation when your teenage child comes home after spending time out with friends. Address them face-to-face and ask if they had a nice time, what they did, or who they were with. If they’ve been using drugs or alcohol, the smell could be lingering on their clothes, hair, or breath.
Make eye contact.
Similar to the tip above, when your teen gets home, be sure to pay attention to their eyes during that face-to-face conversation. If your child has used marijuana – their eyes will be bloodshot, the lids may look droopy, and their pupils small. Drinking leaves pupils dilated and leads to trouble focusing. And, there may be other clues nearby. Is your teen’s face or cheeks flushed? This can also be a sign of drug or alcohol use.
Pay attention to sudden changes in behavior.
If your teen acts one way after school and completely different after a night out with friends, this could be a red flag. Upon their return: Does their volume or vocal register change? Do they crack up for no reason at all? Or, maybe they appear abnormally uncoordinated and you notice they’re bumping into things and knocking things over. Are they acting surly and introverted when they’re usually a chatterbox? Are they sleepy even though it’s early in the evening? Are they complaining of nausea? These could all be clues that they were drinking or using drugs before they came home.
Do they drive?
If your teen drives or has a car make sure to observe this aspect as well. Are they driving less carefully when they come home than when they left? Does their car have dents and dings with no explanation? Check the inside of the car, too. Does it smell? Are there items on the floorboard or in the glovebox that might provide hints that drug or alcohol use is taking place?
Take note of deception and secrets.
Are your teen’s plans starting to sound a little far-fetched? Are they vague about the who, what, when, where, and why? If they went out to a restaurant or to see a band, can they tell you what they ordered or what songs were their favorite? Do they insist a chaperone will be present but can’t produce a contact number? Are they showing up past curfew with a never-ending series of excuses? If you press them on these excuses, do they become erratic and angry? If these scenarios sound familiar, it could be time to act.
If you believe your teen is using drugs, contact our team at Doorways for additional support. We specialize in helping families with teens and young adults ages 13-25. We teach families how to deal with conflict, demonstrate love, improve communication and more. There is help for your family!
Across the country, we are seeing an increase in the number of states legalizing marijuana, a growing number of people abusing opioids, and an increase in the use of synthetic drugs. But, as a recent New York Times article states, drug use among teens has been on the decline. Apparently, this decrease has been growing for over the last 10 years, but no one has really come to understand why.
Some researchers have begun to theorize that the decline is due to the increase in the usage of smartphones among teens. They believe that teens are avoiding drugs and alcohol because of the stimulation that they are receiving from their smartphones.
One of the researchers mentioned by the New York times is Dr. Nora Volkov, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. A team of researchers has been studying the topic and will meet this month to discuss the possible correlation between the decline in drug use and smartphone usage. Are researchers implying that teens might actually be getting “high” on their smartphones? Dr. Volkov says that is just the question that has been posed once the most recent survey, Monitoring the Future results came out which clearly show the decline in drug and alcohol abuse among teens. According to Dr. Volkov, she calls the stimulus that teens are getting from using social media, playing games, etc. as “an alternative enforcer,” the alternative being drugs, saying “teens can literally get high when playing these games.”
A substance abuse expert at Columbia University, Dr. Silvia Martens, states” playing video games, using social media, that fulfills the necessity of sensation seeking, their need to seek novel activity,” but is quick to mention that this still has not yet been proven.
How many teens have a smartphone? According to a recent Google survey, titled It’s Lit: A Guide to What Teens Think is Cool, only 9.6 percent of teens surveyed did not have a smartphone. Another study referenced by the New York Times revealed that the average age for getting a smartphone is 10. What’s even more surprising is that teens spend about six hours a day on their smartphone according to a Common Sense Media survey referenced by Today. According to the recent Google survey, the top social media platforms used by teens are Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram. Additionally, teens use their phones for gaming as well as streaming on sites like YouTube and Netflix. Based on these statistics, it does seem that teens are highly engaged in smartphone usage.
We will have to wait and see if these theories are proven or not, we do know that some teens have found solace in their phones while at parties where drugs and alcohol are present. The teens interviewed in the New York Times article shared their accounts of being at parties and being able to stay away from substances because they were busy on their phones. Other teens mentioned that they replaced boredom with being on their phones unlike some of their peers that replaced their boredom with drugs.
While smartphone usage and research on its effects are still somewhat new, we can see that there is a positive side to teen smartphone usage if it is replacing drug and alcohol use among teens.
Doorways LLC. is a faith-based counseling organization in Phoenix, Arizona, that provides comprehensive outpatient treatment focused exclusively on 13-25-year old’s and their families specializing in treatment for eating disorders, mood disorders, anxiety/OCD, substance abuse, depression, ADD/ADHD, self-harm, suicide prevention, and family counseling.