Repeated wrong use of psychotropic substance (drugs or alcohol) is substance abuse. No ifs, and, or buts about it. It’s illegal, dangerous, addictive, and has absolutely no place in your family. Learn the signs and symptoms of use and how to keep your children substance-free. If you don’t take a stand, how can they?
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Today, alcohol and drugs are brought to school, stashed in bags, pockets or sneakers. There are children who smoke bhang almost daily and they go to school high and sleep through many of their lessons.
There are the even risk seekers, those who are looking for the latest in designer drugs -- mostly pills, but also inhalants and liquids. These children, knowingly or unintentionally, are risking brain damage through organic toxicity as well as disruption of their daily routines, schools, safety and families.
Substance abuse counselors often view drug or alcohol dependency as falling within four progressive stages of development or severity.
1. Initial usage involves a minimal number of episodes (about five or less) and the usage hasn’t yet interfered significantly with daily functioning.
The child still attends and participates in classes, is engaged in regular extracurricular activities, friendships, and family relationships. The teen may view the substance as a way of dealing with discomfort, altering feelings or gaining acceptance into a social group.
2. Problem usage involves using the substance frequently.
In addition, the child’s thought process moves from perceiving substance use as “a possible way of” to “the best way of” altering negative feelings or being accepted by others.
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3. Psychological addiction is stage three.
At this level, the youngster is often very open about her drug usage and quite defiant about others’ attempts to help. Children begin to look forward to binges, to depend upon the ‘good’ (although temporary) feelings associated with substance use, and often show an increased tolerance for their drug or alcohol of choice.
4. The most severe stage, that of psychological addiction, contains all the symptoms and signs of stage three but the body chemistry has adapted to the drugs.
Therefore, detoxification procedures must be cautiously implemented if psychological withdrawal is to occur.
Liquor is often the substance of choice for many young people. Although illegal to sell to anyone underage, a determined teen can usually find a way to secure some alcohol. But beer, wine, and hard liquor can become addictive, and alcoholism is one of the top (mental) health problems.
With all the available drugs and their side effects, you would think that parents are on top of their child’s substance use. Sadly, though, many are not. Children can be so sneaky that often substance use has to become a distinct problem before parents notice.
Talk to your children about substance use and abuse. Studies have shown that parents who hold conversations about the pitfalls of drug and alcohol use help their children not to get addicted to drugs. In your discussions with the children, give examples of people they know who have faced difficult consequences — dropping out of school, poor health, divorce, loss of job, and family upheaval — because of substances.
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Discuss media and peer pressure. Your children are besieged with images of how cool it may be to use drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. To combat this, supervise their TV viewing and music choices, and discuss how peers may pressure them to engage in substance use. Promote a home environment that allows for and invites communication on this topic.
Be a good role model. Don’t do drugs yourself. If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Never, ever drink and go behind the wheel. Never , ever. Be sure your children know this is your policy and how serious you are about drinking and driving.
Consider abstaining from alcohol yourself, you may be surprised how nice life is when you are consistently sober. Make substance abuse part of family code of values. Set up a rule banning all children from substance use (including cigarettes) and stick to it.
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