While most teens in our area make the healthy choice to not use alcohol and other drugs, others are struggling with frequent use or addiction. For those that say, “It’s only marijuana,” or “It’s only alcohol,” it’s important to note that drugs have changed over the past few decades. What some once excused as a rite of passage is now shown to be a gateway to heavier substance abuse. An astounding 90% of addictions start in the teen years. (www.theantidrug.com)

Signs & Symptoms of Teen Alcohol and Drug Use

Even with the best parent involvement, there are no guarantees. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of drug use and to take action if you see your child displaying them. Because many of the indications are typical teenage behaviors, there is no easy way to figure out if your teen is using drugs or alcohol. As you start to recognize more of the signs below, a picture of drug or alcohol use may begin to become clear. Here are some things to look for:

  • Changes in friends
  • Use of room deodorant, incense, or perfume/cologne to hide smoke or chemical odors
  • New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up the smell of alcohol
  • New use of car air fresheners or teen’s car has odor of marijuana or alcohol
  • Increased borrowing or possession of money
  • Increased secrecy about possessions or social activities
  • Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
  • Missing prescription drugs, especially narcotics and mood stabilizers
  • Evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes, rolling papers, etc.
  • Lying

There is no substitute for your own senses and vigilance. Make sure your teens see you when they return home from social plans, no matter how late. Observe them closely, hug or kiss them goodnight and pay attention to odors evidencing drug or alcohol use.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is Using

If you’ve discovered your child is drinking or doing drugs, you are not alone. There are people who can and will help you. Start by talking with people you know—family, friends, counselors, clergy, your teen’s doctor. These people, along with many online resources, can help you get focused and determine what to do.

You can never be too safe or intervene too early–even if you believe your teen is just “experimenting”. Casual or experimental use can quickly turn into heavy use, abuse, dependence and addiction, leading to accidents, risky behaviors, sexual promiscuity, legal trouble, and serious health problems. Some actions you can take are to:

  • Set tighter limits with clear consequences
  • Get outside help and support
  • Have productive conversations with your teen by remaining calm, listening and sharing
  • Closely monitor your child’s behaviors and activities

Our Community Comes Together for Our Youth

Members of Community – The Anti-Drug (CTAD) strive to reduce the number of our youth who choose to use substances. To achieve our goal, we need members of each part of the community coming together to work as a team, or coalition. Your talent, skills, and input will strengthen our coalition and help us achieve our mission.

There are many opportunities to participate. We have committees working on reaching out to parents, empowering youth to make healthy choices, promoting educational curricula to our schools, researching local ordinances, and digging deep into local data to help drive our activities. Check out our new website www.CommunityTheAntiDrug.org or give us a call at 224-713-CTAD (2823) to find out more about our goals and what each committee is doing.

There is also a new opportunity this year to help with a public health marketing campaign for parents of District 113 students. Your participation is vital for this campaign to be suited for parents in our community. There are multiple ways to get involved with this campaign. Time commitment is flexible, ranging from 2 hours per year to 4 hours per month. To get involved or find out more, please contact our partners at the Lake County Health Department Liane Blanck and Liz Nelson by 9/30 at prevention-health@lakecountyil.gov or 847-377-8770.

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