Should parents share their past drug abuse with their children?
If you have used drugs in the past and are now a parent, you may wonder whether or not to share your experiences with your children. It may seem that sharing information could be both helpful and hurtful in regard to helping them make choices about drug use. In other words, if you admit to drug use, will they view the information as cautionary and heed your warnings, or will they use it to justify their experimentation with drugs? If parents tell their children they never experimented with drugs, will they lose credibility? Or, if parents disclose details about their drug use will it send the message that, “they survived, so I will too?”
A few recent studies have focused on this issue and have produced some interesting findings. Parenting.com.blog.nytimes reports that a recent study, “by the 60-year-old Hazelden addiction treatment center, headquartered in Center City, Minn., concludes that we should all be talking early and often, and telling the whole truth. Called “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction,” the study says, simply, that our children want to hear these things from us, and that conversation is a powerful weapon against teen drug use. It seems that about half of parent’s have my past and half have my friends’ (specifically 47 percent of parents report misusing drugs and alcohol as teens). All of us need to start talking.
Among the findings (of the Hazelden addiction treatment center study):
Half of teens say it would make them less likely to use drugs if their parents told them about their own drug use when they were younger.
Two-thirds of teens (67 percent) say their parents have already told them about their experiences with alcohol and other drugs when they were young — and these teens almost unanimously (95 percent) said that kind of honesty about drug use is a good thing.
Among the one-third of teenagers (33 percent) who report their parents have not talked with them about their own use of drugs as teenagers, two in three (68 percent) say that they would want their parents to share these past experiences.
Whether parents have told their teens about their use of alcohol does not significantly decrease the teens’ perceptions of their parents as role models. In fact, teens who are aware of their parents’ experiences with alcohol or drugs as teenagers are nearly as likely as those who are not aware to consider their parents to be role models (90 percent vs. 93 percent).”
Further, according to a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (cited by interventionservices.com), telling your children about your past drug use may lead them to view drug abuse in a less serious light. The study showed that children who had talked about drugs and alcohol with their parents had less interest in experimenting with drugs and felt strongly about the negative complications in doing so. But, it was also shown that if parents discussed their own past drug use, the warning to their children was reportedly less effective.
Thus, parents may want to think twice before they tell their children about past substance abuse problems.
Also, today.com quoted Andreea Crauciuc, a licensed social worker who counsels addicted teens as saying, “I’ve certainly heard from teenagers what they think about their parents’ substance abuse. A lot of times what I hear is, ‘My parents turned out OK.’ The implication is that if the parents used drugs and turned out OK then the teen will, too.”
Crauciuc said that the biggest message for children is what parents actually do, as opposed to what they say. “Parents are a very strong template for the models of who the children should be,” she said. “I think verbal content is absorbed very differently than the information kids get through observation.”
Not everyone believes that parent’s pasts should be withheld from their children. But, most agree that parents who do want to talk about their own drug use with their children should plan carefully what they are going to say beforehand. It is important is simply to keep talking to your children; keeping the lines of communication open. And parents must decide ahead of time if they should share their past drug abuse with their children.
Politicians and Drug Testing
Many politicians have admitted to drug use in their past. However, it seems that some are actually using drugs while in office. This raises the questions as to whether or not politicians should be required to submit to drug testing.
The huge show that Toronto Mayor Tom Ford has made with the discovery of his cocaine abuse use while in office has many people wondering. Congressman Trey Radel has also been charged with cocaine possession. The Florida Republican was sentenced to one year of probation. Some are concerned that others that they may have elected to office are participating in illegal drug use.
Fox news reports that, “Toronto, a city of 2.7 million people, has been abuzz with the Ford melodrama since May, when news outlets reported that he had been caught on video smoking crack cocaine. Recently released court documents show the mayor became the subject of a police investigation after those reports surfaced. Ford, who denied there was any incriminating video, now acknowledges the reports were accurate.”
At Central Michigan University a column was recently posted by Tyler Langley. Langley points out that many are experiencing concern regarding drug use and politicians. He poses the question as to whether or not politicians should be forced to participate in drug testing and concludes that, yes, they should be tested. His argument is interesting. He indicates, “The concept of letting Americans decide the fate of their elected officials should always be the norm. The problem with this, however, is that a politician who has been elected can easily use drugs without the knowledge reaching the public. This unknown use could end up having drastic effects. This is why drug testing is needed for American politicians. Although it should ultimately be up for the American people to decide whether a politician stays or goes when a re-election is due, it is within the right of all voters to know if the people representing them are using drugs.”
The debate about politicians and drug testing is an interesting one and may change some of the policies in place regarding politicians. The public needs to trust and depend on public officials and having politicians engage in drug testing in lieu of recent events may allow people to feel safe and secure
Preventing teen drinking
There are many factors involved in preventing teen drinking. Much research has shown that parental involvement is key in preventing teen drinking. Although many parents do not feel like their teen is listening or responding to their advice when it comes to drinking and smoking, research shows that teens actually do listen to their parents when parents use authority and are consistent in their discussions. A study conducted by Jackson (2002) indicates that, “only 19 percent of teens feel that parents should have a say in the music they listen to, and 26 percent believe their parents should influence what clothing they wear. However, the majority—around 80 percent—feel that parents should have a say in whether they drink alcohol. Those who do not think that parents have authority over these issues are four times more likely than other teens to drink alcohol and three times more likely to have plans to drink if they have not already started.”
Also, it has been shown that teens who believe that their parent would be upset with them or disappointed with them for drinking are less likely to do so. This important fact highlights the importance of communication between teens and parents in discussing expectations and preventing teen drinking.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates some key elements to preventing teen drinking. These include:
“Talk early and often, in developmentally appropriate ways, with children and teens about your concerns—and theirs—regarding alcohol. Adolescents who know their parents’ opinions about youth drinking are more likely to fall in line with their expectations.
Establish policies early on, and be consistent in setting expectations and enforcing rules. Adolescents do feel that parents should have a say in decisions about drinking, and they maintain this deference to parental authority as long as they perceive the message to be legitimate; consistency is central to legitimacy.
Work with other parents to monitor where kids are gathering and what they are doing. Being involved in the lives of adolescents is key to keeping them safe.
Work in and with the community to promote dialogue about underage drinking and the creation and implementation of action steps to address it.
Be aware of your State’s laws about providing alcohol to your own children.
Never provide alcohol to someone else’s child.”
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007)
Further, recent studies have highlighted the importance of community support in preventing teen drinking. Interventionservicesinc.com reports that, “teenagers who are engaged in their community may be less likely to drink.” Recent research conducted at Pennsylvania State University indicates that teens that are part of a loving, supportive, and protective community are much less likely to start abusing alcohol. This research emphasizes the need for positive community involvement and experiences.
With open, respectful communication and explanations of boundaries and expectations, parents, teachers, and community members can influence teen’s decisions well into adolescence and beyond. In regards to preventing teen drinking, this is especially important due to the lifelong consequences.
Meth Addiction can be Deadly
Many drugs are horribly addictive and have extremely adverse effects on their users. However, meth addiction has been shown to be one of the most string addictions and has the most extreme effects. Different from other drug abusers, meth addict’s symptoms are often easily recognizable from outward appearances. Those struggling with meth addictions often have scarred and prematurely aging faces paired with extreme tooth decay that indicates the abuse. If someone you love is struggling with a meth addiction, you may wonder what it is about meth that takes such an unrelenting hold of users
Interventions Services compares meth addiction with cocaine addiction. They report that meth is even more addictive than cocaine and state that, “as an upper, meth spurs the body’s fight-or-flight responses, so, when injected or smoked, it immediately causes spikes in blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature. When it is snorted through the nose or taken orally, however, the effect is a more drawn out high that lasts for hours.
Like cocaine, meth is a stimulant that increases the amount of dopamine – a neurotransmitter that activates neurological “pleasure centers” – in the brain. Meth uniquely does this by causing the brain to create more of the neurotransmitter, while cocaine prevents the dopamine from being flushed out of the user’s system. This difference is an important one, as it means that higher levels of dopamine are in the brain for a longer period of time.
Meth’s ability to tamper with the body’s natural production of pleasure-based dopamine may also be responsible for the drug’s long-term effects. Compared to cocaine, for instance, meth has a more detrimental effect because it reduces the number of dopamine transporters in the brain. The end result is that meth users may have poor motor skills and more difficulty with speech and memory.”
Some other effects of the addictive power of meth include: extreme weight loss, include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness, irritability, insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia. Further, in some meth addiction cases, meth use can cause convulsions that can lead to death. Drugfreeworld.org reports that , “When taken, meth and crystal meth create a false sense of well-being and energy, and so a person will tend to push his body faster and further than it is meant to go. Thus, drug users can experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drugs wear off.” This crash is what drives the addiction, and sometimes the fatal use of meth.
Overall, the effects of meth addiction can be deadly and the abuse of meth should not be taken lightly. Meth is extremely addictive and both the short and long term side effects can be very harmful.
Drug addiction and binge eating– are they similar?
Just like many pleasurable behaviors—including sex and drug use—eating can trigger the release of dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, in the brain. Further, this internal reward can increase the possibility that this behavior will eventually become habit forming through positive reinforcement conditioning. That is to say, that the more we feel pleasure from eating, or overeating, the more addicted we can become to it. This pattern of addiction is similar to drug abuse addiction where the neurochemical response becomes difficult to shake. Ralph DiLeone, a brain scientist at Yale University indicates that, “the motivation to take cocaine in the case of a drug addict is probably engaging similar circuits that the motivation to eat is in a hungry person.” Some have even gone further by suggesting that when we binge eat, we are training our brains for other addictive behaviors and/or tendencies.
Further, many teenagers struggle with eating disorders – whether they are related to under-eating or overeating. A study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine reports that irregular eating can be another element that may increase a teen’s risk of developing a drug abuse problem. Also, Bloomberg News reported that “adolescents who binge-eat are nearly two times more likely to use marijuana and other illegal substances.”
However, it’s not just youth or adolescents who struggle with eating disorders. Individuals of all ages should be cautious about their eating habits and how those habits may eventually transfer over to other harmful addictions. People who consume large amounts of food at once are more likely to treat drugs in a similar way. It has been found that behind any addiction, the driving force is impulse – making drug abuse a common complement to binge eating. Drug abuse and binge eating both occur when there is a loss of control over consumption.
According to Patricia Sue Grigon, Ph.D. at Penn State College of Medicine, “drug addiction persists as a major problem in the United States. Likewise, excessive food intake, like binge eating, has become problematic. Given the common characteristics of these two types of disorders, it is not surprising that the co-occurrence of eating disorders and substance abuse disorders is high. It is unknown, however, whether loss of control in one disorder predisposes an individual to loss of control in another.”
In the lab, Grigson and her colleagues found a link between bingeing on fat and the development of cocaine-seeking and -taking behaviors in rats. This relationship suggests that conditions promoting excessive behavior toward one substance can increase the probability of excessive behavior toward another and findings were reported in the Journal of Behavioral Neuroscience.
Grigson reports, “A history of bingeing on fat changed the brain, physiology, or both in a manner that made these rats more likely to seek and take a drug when tested more than a month later. We must identify these predisposing neurophysiological changes.” That is to say, when the rats had engaged in binge eating behavior, they were more likely to binge on drugs and become engaged in drug addicted behavior afterward – especially those rats allowed to binge on fat.
Sources: Penn State University, Scientific American, Yale University
Is My Teenager is Using Drugs?
Sometimes it is difficult to face the reality of your teen possibly using drugs. No parent wants to believe the harsh truth that their teenager may be using. One of the hardest things in identifying your teen’s addiction may be your reluctance to accept the problem yourself. It can be hard to face that your son or daughter has an addiction, largely out of fear for what it could mean for your child.
The first step, according to interventionservices.com, is to identify the problem itself. However, when teens, or anyone, are abusing drugs, they will do everything they can to hide or conceal the evidence so they won’t get into “trouble” and so they can keep using.
But, according to the Mayo Clinic, there are some telltale signs of teenage drug use that may be fairly recognizable. For instance, your child may become more withdrawn from your family than usual and/or they may become increasingly defensive about their personal space and evasive when asked about their plans. It’s one thing for a teenager to want privacy, but you should be concerned when they won’t tell you where they are going go or they won’t allow family members into their space or rooms. Also, their academic performance will often decline, and these teens are often skipping classes or losing interest in extracurricular activities they once enjoyed. Sometimes their personal hygiene is affected as well. That is to say, most teenagers are generally concerned with how they look. Teens that are addicted to drugs can show a general lack of interest in clothing, grooming, or looks. Some or any of these symptoms may indicate that something is amiss with your teen.
The Mayo Clinic further suggests that teens who request money without explaining what they need the money for may show signs of drug use. Sometimes parents may find that they are missing money – that their teenage may be stealing from them. Or, items from your home may go missing as your teen sells them to pay for drugs. For more specific signs for individual drugs – if you think you may know which drug is specifically being used – refer to the Mayo Clinic’s website. They have many different specific symptoms listed for commonly abused drugs.
If you are reading this article and doing the research to find answers concerning teen drug abuse, you are taking a huge step in the right direction. The most important thing a parent can do is reach out to their child and be honest about their concerns. If you do suspect a problem, it would be wise to counsel with professionals and seek professional help for your teen.
Inhalant abuse (also commonly called “huffing“) is defined by medicine.net as, “the intentional inhalation of chemical vapors to attain a mental “high” or euphoric effect.” Many common household products are abused by inhalers during huffing. The Foundation for a Drug-Free World reports that roughly 593,000 teens experiment with inhalants every year. Huffing is particularly common among younger users – many of whom start using at 14 or 15 years old – largely because aerosol cans are easily accessible, and can be found in kitchen cabinets in the home. Medicine.net also indicates that “The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) revealed that the primary population of inhalant abusers (68%) is under 18 years of age. Although inhalant abuse is declining from its peak in the 1990s, it is still a significant problem. In 2011, 7% of eighth graders reported inhalant use, along with 4.5% of 10th graders and 3.2% of 12th graders.”
It is imperative for parents to be aware of the signs and symptoms of huffing as a popular teen addiction since the effects and consequences can be very frightening. The National Inhalant Prevention Coalition is quoted on inhalants.org as identifying 4 main categories of inhalant abusers. These include:
- The transient social user —has short history of huffing; uses with friends; average intelligence; 10-16 years old.
- The chronic social user—has long history of huffing (5+ years); daily huffing with friends; minor legal involvement; poor social skills; limited education; brain damage; 20-30 years old.
- The transient isolate user—has short history of huffing; solo huffing; 10-16 years old.
- The chronic isolate—long history of huffing – 5+ years; daily huffing; legal involvement; poor social skills; has limited education; brain damage; 20-29 years old.
Identifying whether or not your child is experimenting with or addicted to huffing can be difficult, but there are some warning signs. The warning signs of huffing can include: frequent runny noses, a dazed appearance, paint stains around the mouth, and/or excessive use of hair spray or other aerosol products.
A physician with the Iowan Poison Control Center reports that when huffing, an individual feels like “they’re drunk. It’s that sense of euphoria for some people, the loss of inhibitions, and/or the loss of coordination.” He also indicated that emergency room attendants are often unsure how to handle some of the extreme effects of huffing – such as difficulty breathing.
In addition to causing suffocation and impairing healthy brain development, huffing can also pose another threat: a condition called Sudden Sniff Syndrome. With Sudden Sniff Syndrome, an individual’s heart can begin to beat erratically after inhaling, resulting in a cardiac arrest. In a worst case scenario, this result of huffing can lead to death.
If you believe that your child or someone you love may have a huffing addiction, it’s important to get help and support from those educated in inhalant/huffing addictions. Teen (or even adults) may think huffing is fun and not very serious, but it can lead to something deadly if it is not stopped.
Drug and alcohol Intervention
Intervention for drug or alcohol abuse is defined as a planned attempt either by a group or an individual (usually family and friends) to get professional help for a loved one with an addiction. Often the individual who needs help does not know about the intervention. That is to say, the intervention is kept secret until the moment of disclosure when the loved one who needs help is taken to a facility or place where professional treatment is received. This secrecy is generally important due to the fact that most individuals struggling with drug and/or alcohol abuse rarely comply with such drastic measures knowing they will no longer be allowed to drink or use drugs.
Many feel anxious and fearful of intervening in their loved one’s behalf when there is an alcohol or drug abuse problem. Often, the biggest misunderstanding that happens with families and spouses in regard to interventions for their loved ones is the tendency to wait and hope and pray that their loved one can somehow get better on their own. Further, many people misunderstand that the right time for an intervention is after their loved one has already hit “rock bottom.” Often, at this point, it is too late and loved ones don’t make it into recovery. Also, even if these individuals who have hit “rock bottom” do pull through from a late stage intervention, they still have return to confront the damage they caused along the way.
With careful preparation and planning, completing an intervention will help your loved one get the help they need. The National Intervention for Drugs and alcohol (NIDA) recommends that individuals do not wait to help their loved ones. They advocate that “time is the enemy” and encourage getting help for your loved one before times runs out.
Love First’s Clinical Interventionist, Jeff Jay discusses the importance of being prepared for the intervention in his intervention checklist (http://lovefirst.net/wpt/intervention/). He stresses the importance of having a group of people who are important to the individual and are willing to help. He talks about writing letters to the loved one that they can have after intervention to understand and feel your love for them and to outline all of the things you helped them do or watched them do before intervention that did not end successfully. Also, he notes that it is key to not allow the individual to become aware of the intervention before it happens. He indicates to make any necessary appointments, plane or other transportation arrangements so the plan can run smoothly. Also, complete intake paperwork and have some answers ready for when the individual attempts to talk you out of intervention. And, he says to ask the treatment center you are using to help you pack a bag for the individual and make sure you have a list of any medications they are taking. Again, preparation is central to success.
Intervention may seem drastic or even frightening. However, without it your loved one may not get better. If they could have successfully recovered on their own chances are they would have already done it. Addiction is a very powerful enemy that is often too hard to try and defeat alone without intervention and/or professional help. That doesn’t imply that your loved one is weak, it just indicates that they are no match to fight their physical addiction by themselves.
For more information on Intervention, visit Intervention Services Inc.
What is rehabilitation? Rehabilitation can be defined as any process that seeks to restore the patient to a previous level of health as related to matters of physical and emotional well being.
Drug rehabilitation may take place in a rehabilitation center, especially if there are other health issues that need to be addressed during the rehabilitation process. However, many people are able to overcome addiction and become fully rehabilitated through regular participation with substance abuse counseling groups or by spending time in a halfway house. Drug rehabilitation is a specific form of learning and retraining that also generally involves both physical and emotional counseling as part of the rehab process. Physical factors can involve helping the addict to deal with physical cravings, while counseling is helpful in weakening the emotional bonds that tie the addict to his or her drug habit.
Drugrehab.us indicates many things that can occur during drug rehabilitation. They indicate that the process may differ somewhat depending on the rehabilitation center, but generally the following elements are included:
First, there will be a physical assessment. When an individual starts drug rehab, a physician may spend some time with the individual to assess their addiction and create a detoxification plan. The detox plan will be based on the types of drugs they were using, so it is critical that they are honest with the physician about every drug they have taken recently.
Second, there will be a psychological assessment where a psychiatrist may assess the individual for issues such as anxiety, depression, bipolar, or other emotional or psychological issues. This first assessment is not considered a “final” one, because the fact the individual may still be under the influence of drugs may impact this assessment. For example, drugrehab.us indicates that some people may feel depressed at this point, but once they are completely free of drugs, the depression lifts.
Third, actual detoxification will take place. For many people, this process is the most frightening. However, most rehabilitation centers are experienced in developing a treatment plan for detoxification that will be as comfortable as possible. The rehabilitation center will often use medications to ease symptoms of withdrawal. The best rehabilitation centers will only use these substitutes for a short period of time to facilitate withdrawal, the goal being complete freedom from mood-altering drugs.
Fourth, the individual will engage in therapy. Much evidence shows that group therapy is the most effective form of therapy treatment for combating drug addiction. Drugrehab.us further indicates that, “although individual therapy is also important, there is no compelling evidence that more individual and less group therapy is effective. In fact, the opposite is true. By connecting with others who have your same impulses and compulsions, you develop strategies to remain free of drugs and alcohol.”
Fifth, most rehabilitation programs recognize that physical fitness is key to recovering the health of the body, mind, and spirit. It has been shown that physical exercise triggers endorphins, the body’s natural chemicals that make you feel good. It is critical that individuals develop ways to feel good without drugs or alcohol, and physical exercise is a healthy way to do that.
Sixth, drugrehab.us emphasizes the importance of the impact that eating a healthy diet can make individuals feel in recovery. It has been shown that maintaining an “even keel” with one’s blood sugar helps with cravings of every kind. Too many processed carbohydrates make individuals feel sluggish whereas too much sugar can increase mood swings.
Seventh, alternative approaches may be examined in rehabilitation. Some rehabilitation centers offer alternative therapies for individuals in treatment. For instance, acupuncture has been shown to be a highly effective pain management treatment, and is very popular among recovering addicts who have chronic pain. Meditation, massage, yoga, and equine therapy are also often used in rehabilitation.
Eight, the rehabilitation center will work with the individual to create an after-care plan. Many individuals are hesitant to leave the rehabilitation center, fearful of falling back into old patterns and behaviors. The plan generally includes specific strategies and even people to contact when the individual returns home.
Last, being discharged, or released, form rehabilitation can be many things. It may be joyous, or exciting. Discharge from rehab may also be frightening or produce anxiety. But, if the individual follows the after care plan given by the rehabilitation center and avoids triggers, they will have the best chance of long-term recovery after rehabilitation.
Rehabilitation is difficult and exhausting, but, for many individuals, rehabilitation can be the most important step in their recovery that points them in the right direction toward a final and complete recovery from drug and/or alcohol abuse.