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How To Recognize Addiction in Your Child

Updated on August 17, 2012
krsharp05 profile image

Kristi graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in Human Development and Developmental Psychopathology of Children.

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Alcohol, drug and tobacco use amongst teens is more prevalent today than ever. Studies suggest that up to 75% of high school students have tried alcohol, tobacco, legal drugs or illicit drugs and that 20% of those kids are full blown addicts.

Peer pressure can often be the antecedent to drug use. The earlier a child is introduced to habit-forming substances, the more likely they are to become career addicts.The average age of introductory marijuana use is 14 and it is not uncommon for children to use alcohol as early as 12 years old.

It's not uncommon to hear people suggest that it's "normal" for teens to experiment with drugs however, there is nothing conventional about seeking out illegal substances then proceeding to ingest, snort, smoke or inject it into your body. It can be dangerous to ignore warnings and risk factors by dismissing them because "kids will be kids".

Reasons A Child Might Use Drugs, Alcohol, or Tobacco

In addition to peer pressure, other reasons a child may use drugs, tobacco and alcohol are:

  • Family history of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Abusive parents or family members
  • Little or no parent supervision
  • No parent communication
  • Severe parental discipline
  • Impulsivity
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Thrill seeking behavior
  • Depression or other mood disorders
  • Self-esteem issues
  • Feeling of being out-cast

Abuse and Addiction Risk Factors

Things that you should consider if you believe that your child might be using drugs are:

  • Does your child display repeated physical fatigue or sleepiness? Does he or she spend an excessive amount of time sleeping or in bed?
  • Does your child have red, glassy eyes? Over time this is often accompanied with a gray or purple shade around the eye.
  • Does your child have a persisting cough or wheeze which sounds asthmatic?
  • Does your child seem moody, depressed and uninterested? Is her or she making decisions that are more irresponsible than a normal teenager would make such as a dangerous or life-threatening decision?
  • Does your child have a sudden negative interest in family and school? Is he or she skipping classes and displaying unruly behaviors?
  • Has your child recently changed peer groups and school activities? Has he or she changed the style in which they dress or the music they listen to?

It is important to note that because your child displays one or two of these warning signs does not mean that drug abuse is imminent. These warning signs may be indicative of other or additional mental health issues. If you are concerned that there are underlying medical, physical or psychopathy issues it is always best to consult a physician or psychiatrist.

How Can I Help My Child

Experts agree that the first and best way to help your child is through proper guidance, communication, being a superb role model and being absolutely aware of what is going on in your child's life at all times. Ways to achieve those characteristics are:

  1. Speak openly with your child about the realities of drugs, alcohol, tobacco use and the repercussions they all carry.
  2. Keep your child busy with activities that are productive such as athletics, music, art, theater, summer school, camp, horse back riding, fencing, robotics, graphic design or any type of activity that will keep their mind focused off of negative behavior.
  3. Make sure that your child is doing well at school. If a child feels that he is failing in school, he may develop poor self esteem.
  4. Establish clear guidelines and consequences for breaking rules and follow through when rules are broken. This includes kids of all ages - teens as well.
  5. Love unconditionally and don't judge when your child makes a mistake because it's inevitable that they will. If your child does have an infraction, use it as a learning experience as opposed to a third world war and as soon as it's resolved, let it go.

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    • Rebecca2904 profile image

      Rebecca 4 years ago

      Really great hub about an increasingly prevalent problem in today's society. I absolutely agree that an open and honest relationship between parent and child is vital in keeping the child on the straight and narrow. I've always had an amazing relationship with my mum, which has meant that if I have any questions on any topic, even difficult ones like drug use, I could ask her and she'd give me an honest answer without her judging me or there being any awkwardness on either side. Of course, this meant I never had to rely on people my own age for information, who likely knew just as little as I did.

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 4 years ago from Malaysia

      I was just reading an article two days ago about how different approach should be taken on women drug addicts in our country. Most of these women drug abusers are teenagers. Your tips on how to help are useful for all parents. Voted useful and Shared.

    • krsharp05 profile image
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      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Rebecca, thank you for the excellent response. I think you are in the minority, unfortunately. But I'm glad that there are people like you who understand the importance of educating children and not skirting the issues. I appreciate your input. Danke schön! -K

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      greatstuff, thank you for your input and for voting and sharing. It seems that ideologies that were once acceptable are now primeval. I can't imagine not speaking openly to my kids about issues but I have a very close friend who is the polar opposite. Great to have you here. -K

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Good and useful information. thank you

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Mhatter, Appreciate you reading and letting me know you are here. Always glad to see you. -K

    • Emma Harvey profile image

      Emma Harvey 4 years ago from Berkshire, UK

      Being a parent is worrying all the way through and suspecting your teenager might have an addiction must be frightening.

      Not all teenagers speak openly to their parents but it's important to know how to recognize the signs and do your best to be there for your child. Talking about drug issues before a child is introduced to that world is great advice, so that they are educated.

      Voting this hub up and sharing :)

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran 4 years ago from Long Island, New York

      This Hub is a gift that can save lives. Thank you for your articulate handling of a subject that has been a heartbreak for so many families. Voted up!

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      rfmoran, thank you for reading. I appreciate your input and even more so, your blessing. I find that this is a delicate topic with most of the kiddos' parents that I work with but I always hit it "head on". I think that skirting the issue leaves loopholes by which children often fall through. Thank you for being here. -K

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      This is excellent advice and wonderful tips on how to detect addiction in a child. It's a concern for many parents today, especially as they enter middle school. Parents would be ahead of the game if they discussed drugs before they are middle school students so that their children are aware of how to deal with peer pressure. Voted up!

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Once again, another insightful hub which deals with prevalent social issues. This info can potentially help a lot of people.

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      teaches, thank you for reading and responding. You're right about the prevalence of addiction today. We simply cannot leave it up to the schools to educate and guide our kiddos appropriately when it comes to important decision making issues like these. I always love to hear from you since you work with kids too. Blessed be. -K

    • krsharp05 profile image
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      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Spartuus, Hi Teammate! It seems as though I haven't heard from you in a while. Thank you for reading and for your input. I hope that people find it helpful, if nothing else. Great to see you again. -K

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 4 years ago from Idaho

      This is a well written Hub. I have 5 kids, three teen ager's and two little one's, and I can say without hesitation, parenting is the most difficult job I have ever done. You want the best for them. You want them to realize what one time can do, how addiction can ruin your life. You can provide supervision, but you cannot be with them every minute of the day. The best a parent can do is provide the proper foundation to say no, an escape route when they are bombarded with peer pressure, and pray a lot!

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      k2jade, you offer an excellent point that I failed to write down. I always tell my children that when your friends are pressuring them to do something, simply blame it on me! (as the parent) Thank you for reading and for the great response and discussion. -K

    • k2jade31 profile image

      Kimberly Shelden 4 years ago from Idaho

      Yes!!! Me too, I always tell them to blame me, it's ok I do not mind:)

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      I agree. I'll take the hit for them any time. Thanks again. -K

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Excellent hub that I recommend all parents to read. My boys are still young but i enjoy reading about how I can prepare to be a more informed parent as they age. Voted up! Kelley

    • profile image

      kelleyward 4 years ago

      Excellent hub that I recommend all parents to read. My boys are still young but i enjoy reading about how I can prepare to be a more informed parent as they age. Voted up! Kelley

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      Kelleyward, Thank you for reading. Nice to see you again. I think that parents should be prepared for everything. Knowledge is power especially in this day and age. After working with kids as long as I have I've always promised that I would never be the parent who says, "my child would never do that!" because it can affect any child. I appreciate your input. -K

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      Frightening statistics. Between peer pressure and lack of parental supervision, children today are fighting an uphill battle with regard to addiction. As you state, education and prevention must begin at home or within community groups (for those without a stable home). Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • krsharp05 profile image
      Author

      krsharp05 4 years ago from 18th and Vine

      lindacee, thank you for reading and for your input. It's terrifying how early kids are faced with these types of choices. The best thing we can do is arm our kids with the tools they need to be terrific little warriors. I'm glad you're here. -K

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