Source: Connect with Kids
“Just take whatever we had you know, not really thinking about how high I was going to get or you know, how messed up.”
– ‘James’, age 21, explaining how he and friends shared drugs during his teenage years.
“We all had different prescriptions,” says 18-year-old Laura.
“You know, percocets, valium, zanex, oxycontin,” says James, 21.
“I wanted to get as loaded as I could. Didn’t care what I was taking, how much of it,” adds Laura.
James and Laura met in rehab. Both are drug addicts who used to get high at parties. Parties where everyone brought some kind of prescription drug and passed them around, often combining them with pot or alcohol.
“When I first started using and mixing drugs, I felt like a superhero, like nothing, you know, I was invincible,” says Laura.
Some kids call them ‘pharm’ parties… for ‘pharmaceutical’.
Experts say the allure is… the unknown. “What kind of new experience can I get? And very often it’s kids who are just bored of smoking pot day in and day out… cause they’ve reached a saturation point,” says Addiction Counselor Robert Margolis, Ph.D.
But experts say taking someone else’s prescription is dangerous… especially when combined with other drugs.
“There are combinations out there that if you start to mix together will create reaction in your body that by the time you know what’s happening, it’s too late,” Dr. Margolis.
“What I did notice is that I would black out a lot of nights,” says James.
Laura survived her years of drug years… but her addiction led to mood swings and depression that made her suicidal.
“Once I started getting heavily addicted, I tried overdosing several times, so I wanted to die, I didn’t want to live anymore,” she says.
“The risks are immense and the kids don’t realize that,” says Dr. Margolis, “And they’re everything from having a tremendous hangover to fatal.”
Tips for Parents
As a parent, it is important to understand that teens may be involved with legal and illegal drugs in various ways. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) reports that many teens begin using drugs to satisfy their curiosity, to make themselves feel good, to reduce stress, to feel grown up or to “fit in.” While it is difficult to know which teens will experiment and stop and which will develop serious problems, the National Institute of Drug Abuse says the following types of teens are at greatest risk of becoming addicted:
Those who have a family history of substance abuse
Those who are depressed
Those who have low self-esteem
Those who feel like they don’t “fit in” or are out of the mainstream
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration puts its seal of approval on prescription drugs, many teens mistakenly believe that using these drugs – even if they are not prescribed to them – is safe. However, this practice can, in fact, lead to addiction and severe side effects. The Center for Drug Evaluation and Research cites the following most commonly abused prescription drugs:
Opioids – Also known as narcotic analgesics, opioids are used to treat pain. Examples of this type of drug include morphine, codeine, OxyContin (oxycodone), Vicodin (hydrocodone) and Demerol (meperidine). In the short term, these drugs block pain messages and cause drowsiness. A large, single dose can cause severe respiratory depression and death. Long-term use leads to physical dependence and, in some cases, addiction.
Central nervous system (CNS) depressants – These drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety, panic attacks and sleep disorders. Examples include Nembutal (pentobarbital sodium), Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam). CNS depressants slow down normal brain function and can cause a sleepy, uncoordinated feeling in the beginning of treatment. Long-term use can lead to physical dependence and addiction.
Stimulants – These drugs are commonly used to treat the sleeping disorder narcolepsy and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Examples include Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine). Stimulants, which can be addictive, enhance brain activity and increase alertness and energy. They elevate blood pressure, heart rate and respiration. Very high doses can lead to irregular heartbeat and high body temperature
How can you determine if your teen is abusing drugs? The AACAP suggests looking for the following warning signs and symptoms in your teen:
Physical – Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes and a lasting cough
Emotional – Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest
Familial – Starting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family
School-related – Decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy and discipline problems
Social – having new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music
If you believe your teen has a problem with drug abuse, you can take several steps to get the help he or she needs. The American Academy of Family Physicians suggests contacting your health-care provider so that he or she can perform an adequate medical evaluation in order to match the right treatment or intervention program with your teen. You can also contact a support group in your community dedicated to helping families coping with addiction.
Substance abuse can be an overwhelming issue with which to deal, but it doesn’t have to be. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers the following strategies to put into practice so that your teen can reap the rewards of a healthy, drug-free life:
Be your teen’s greatest fan. Compliment him or her on all of his or her efforts, strength of character and individuality.
Encourage your teen to get involved in adult-supervised after-school activities. Ask him or her what types of activities he or she is interested in and contact the school principal or guidance counselor to find out what activities are available. Sometimes it takes a bit of experimenting to find out which activities your teen is best suited for, but it’s worth the effort – feeling competent makes children much less likely to use drugs.
Help your teen develop tools he can use to get out of drug-related situations. Let him or her know he or she can use you as an excuse: “My mom would kill me if I smoked marijuana!”
Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Set appointments for yourself to call them and check-in to make sure they share your views on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Steer your teen away from any friends who use drugs.
Call teens’ parents if their home is to be used for a party. Make sure that the party will be drug-free and supervised by adults.
Set curfews and enforce them. Let your teen know the consequences of breaking curfew.
Set a no-use rule for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Sit down for dinner with your teen at least once a week. Use the time to talk – don’t eat in front of the television.
Get – and stay – involved in your teen’s life.
Substance Abuse & Mental Human Services Administration
Drug Abuse Warning Network
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
National Institute on Drug Abuse
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Center for Drug Evaluation and Research
American Academy of Family Physicians
Partnership for a Drug-Free America