Safeguarding Teens from Addiction

Safeguarding Teens from Addiction


Addiction among teens is on the rise. The statistical data on this is alarming to say the least and hence it is imperative that parents safeguard their teens from addiction. The blog gives valuable tips to parents on preventing, identifying and handling addiction in their teen children.

In India, around 1.58 crore children between the ages of 10-17 years are victims of addiction. According to government data, alcohol addiction is the most common, followed by cannabis and opioids. The problem of addiction has been seen to affect both urban and rural areas equally.

It is a huge cause for concern among healthcare leaders as it is predicted that addiction will grow further in the next decade.

Three main trends have been identified as the reasons for increasing addiction:

  • Popular media normalizes and even glamourizes alcohol. When children see their idols indulge in it, they assume that it is accepted.
  • E-cigarette companies advertise e-cigarettes as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes but the truth is e-cigarettes come with their own set of health risks.
  • Mental health issues among children are on the rise. Performance pressure, peer pressure, etc. make children vulnerable to addiction.

What Places Teens at Risk for Addiction?

Teenagers’ brains are evolving and developing. Their academic excellence or their high scores in exams are not an indication of emotional maturity. The part of the brain that is responsible for reasoning takes till 25 years to develop fully.

Research has shown that adults process information with the rational part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex. Teens do so with the emotional part – the amygdala. Teens will develop good judgement and decision-making skills. But till then, they do need guidance.

The challenge for the parents lies in guiding their teens without seeming too intrusive as their teens are in the process of exploring their personality and demand greater freedom.

Factors That Assist Drug Addiction

Many factors can contribute to teen drug abuse. Some of the common risk factors are listed below:

  • Family history of addiction
  • Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, etc.
  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Having experienced a traumatic event
  • Low self-confidence

Teenagers typically explore substances in a social setting. Alcohol and cigarettes are both easily accessible as they are legal for adults. Seeing adults drinking or smoking, teenagers get the impression that they are safe to try.

The need to fit in with friends is also another huge factor. They find it hard to say “no” because they fear social rejection.

Loneliness and feelings of stress too make them turn to alcohol and drugs as a way of escape.

Finally, it could be just plain curiosity that drives them to try it. Some even try it just to prove their independence to their parents or as a way of rebelling against them.

Teen Drug Abuse – The Repercussions

The consequences include but are not limited to the following:

  • Addiction complicates already existing mental health disorders.
  • Drug addiction contributes to high-risk sexual behaviour and unsafe sex.
  • Teens’ good judgement is drastically affected.
  • Academic performance declines.
  • Driving skills are affected putting the teen and all road users at risk.

What Can Parents Do?

The involvement of parents plays a huge role in preventing addiction. It is best to start talking to children about the harmful effects of addiction from a young age and it is important to keep talking about it to reinforce the fact that substance abuse is harmful.

Talking to Your Teen

Before you talk, make sure the place you choose to talk is comfortable for both of you. Avoid distractions – it is best to turn your phones off. Set aside enough time so that you can take it slowly. Do not have the conversation when either of you is upset or angry over something – you will need a clear head when you have this talk.

  • Avoid lectures. Ask teens for their opinions and do not get upset if their views do not match with yours.
  • It is best to reason it out with them instead of trying to scare them. Tell them how drugs might affect activities they enjoy like sports, driving, etc.
  • If a movie you have watched normalizes alcohol use, talk to your teen about it and explain why it is not true.
  • Teach your teens to stand up to peer pressure. They might find it difficult to respond to friends with a blunt “no”. Discuss with them and come up with ideas on how to get out of sticky situations.

Many parents do not feel comfortable talking to their teens about addiction. But it has to be done. And the more often we talk about it, the more normal it becomes.

Other Ways of Prevention

  • Teenage is that time when children start going out with their friends without adult supervision. Hence, parents need to keep track of teens’ whereabouts.
  • Get to know their friends. If their friends are into drugs, your teen is at risk of being introduced to drugs.
  • Keep track of any prescription medicines in the house.
  • Be a role model to your children. Your child will not listen to you if you yourself over-indulge in alcohol.
  • A strong bond between parents and children is finally the most effective way to make them listen to parents and safeguard them from addiction.

Recognize Signs of Addiction

Parents need to be aware of these signs of addiction so that they can get children the help they need.

  • Sudden mood changes, change in friends, change in sleeping patterns or in their appearances are all situations that need to be looked into.
  • Reckless behaviour, making bad decisions and general disinterest are all causes for concern.
  • Distancing from the family and flouting parents’ authority too are some possible signs of addiction.
  • Any medication in the teen’s room, empty medicine containers, etc. all need to put parents on guard.

Seeking Help

If as a parent you are worried that your teen is using drugs, act immediately. Talk to your teen in a calm manner about why you suspect it. Listen to his/her response and verify the claims. Encourage honesty and be careful of how you react. Listening to their teens’ drug use is not easy for any parent but you have to remain calm so that they do not close up.

Remember, intervention can never be early enough. Recreational drug use can easily turn into addiction. Do not hesitate to reach out for professional help.

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