Kids and Drugs: What parents need to know

June 22, 2000|By TARA REILLY

The 1998 Maryland Adolescent Survey recently released to the Washington County Board of Education showed drug, alcohol and tobacco use is on the rise among younger students.

In particular, sixth-graders in Washington County increased substance use between the 1996 and 1998 surveys, according to the report. The report reflects a nationwide increase in drug, alcohol and tobacco use among students of the same age.

Substance use is also popular throughout high schools, with students reporting taking drugs such as PCP, LSD, cocaine, heroin and marijuana in addition to alcohol.

Here are some warning signs of teen substance use and tips for parents trying to combat the problem:


Clues of use

Many teenagers who experiment with drugs and alcohol use casually with friends and progress toward regular use. How do parents find clues of use? Here are some examples:


* Hug your child when he or she walks in the door. Smell the underlying odors of possible marijuana smoke, alcohol, cologne or chewing gum.

* Teenagers who use drugs walk straight to their room when they arrive home. Make eye contact and hold a brief conversation. Pay attention to your child's speech and balance.

* Stay awake and keep the lights on until your child comes home.

* Deny requests for your child to unexpectedly sleep over at a friend's house.

* Participate in activities that involve the parents of your child's friends. Networking is extremely helpful in keeping abreast of what your child is really doing.

* Build relationships with neighbors. You're probably not home 24 hours a day.

* Contact teachers at school about your child's behavior. Report cards don't tell the whole story.

* Ask your child's friends to identify themselves when they call. Meet them when the opportunity presents itself.

The key is to be vigilant about your child's activities and friends. The best way to spot the problem early is to keep your eyes and ears open and believe your child is capable of using drugs.

- No More Drugs Inc.

Warning signs of drug, alcohol abuse

* Deterioration in school performance and irregular attendance

* Resistance to authority and defiance by breaking curfews, etc.

* Attitude changes: Relationships with family members have deteriorated

* Behavior problems: Child becomes hostile and uncooperative

* High-risk behavior such as stealing

* Extreme mood swings, including depression, being withdrawn, tired and careless about personal grooming

* Sexual promiscuity

* Physical complaints

* Changes in relationships, eating habits and sleep patterns

* Difficulty waking adolescent

* Loss of interest in hobbies, sports and other favorite activities

* Odor of gasoline or other household products

* Unexplainable paint around mouth or on hands

* Missing alcohol or money around the home

* Alcohol on breath

* Slurred speech

* Staggering

* Appearing spaced-out or has a hard time concentrating.

* Dilated pupils, eyes are red-rimmed or nose is runny in absence of a cold

* Presence of drug paraphernalia: pipes, pill boxes, straws, spoons, cigarette papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters, homemade pipes and bongs made from soda cans or plastic containers

* Clothing depicting drug themes

- Provided by Addictions & More and The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information



The following are organizations that provide parents with publications and advice on which approaches are most effective:

* Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA)

1-703-706-0560 or 1-800-54-CADCA

* African-American Parents for Drug Prevention


* Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)

1-800-GET-MADD or 1-214-744-6233

Web site:

* National Families in Action


Web site:

* Parents' Resource Institute for Drug Education Inc. (PRIDE)


Web site:

* Red Ribbon Works


Web sites: or

* Adolescence Directory Online (ADOL)

* Parents

* Partnership for a Drug-Free America

* White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

- Provided by The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information

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