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on commonly abused drugs.
The use of alcohol and other drugs by youth is a serious problem in our society. Current information reveals:
- Youth begin experimenting with alcohol and other drugs between the ages of 11 and 14.
- Alcohol is the number one drug problem among youth in the U.S. and more kids get into trouble with alcohol than any other drug.
- Alcohol is considered a "gateway" or entry drug for youth; kids are more likely to use other drugs including over-the-counter drugs and cigarettes, if they use alcohol first.
- The three leading causes of death among youth-accidents, homicides and suicides-are all significantly related to alcohol use.
- In New York State, about 15% of students in grades 7-12 are heavy users of both alcohol and other drugs.
- Among teens, drug use is strongly related to having friends who use drugs; if your child has friends who use drugs, then your child probably does too.
Alcohol is such an accepted part of the American culture that it carries with it a sense of innocence for teenagers who "experiment" with it. But alcohol is a drug, and this reaction reflects a dangerous attitude that has gained wide acceptance. Although alcoholic beverages are legal for adults, they are ILLEGAL for children and teenagers. Parents who consider alcohol use by young people as "innocent, every-kid-tries-it" behavior are taking an unnecessary risk for their children and friends, not to mention their own liability.
Besides alcohol, youth use other drugs. Most commonly used are cigarettes, marijuana, cocaine and crack but there are many others, including over-the-counter drugs. Youth report relative ease in obtaining illegal drugs. For your information, a reference chart of common drugs and symptoms of abuse is included. See Page 18-19.
A first step toward avoiding problems with alcohol and drugs is establishing guidelines for responsible behavior. Talking with parents of other kids can help you determine appropriate rules for your family. Alcohol and other drug experimentation can begin early, so it is important to start talking about alcohol and other drugs from the time your child enters grade school. The following are some suggestions.
When Your Teen is Giving a Party
- Be clear about and share your values; you are a role model for your child/teen. Remember, children do as their parents do, not as they say.
- Have your child/teen develop with you family rules (drugs, curfew, sharing chores, acceptable hang-outs, calling in, homework, etc.).
- Involve your child/teen in coming up with the consequences of breaking family rules.
- Follow through with consequences of breaking family rules.
- Expect your child/teen to be responsible for his or her behavior.
- Share your expectations of your kids with neighbors and other family members.
- Discuss with your child/teen how to handle the situation if alcohol or other drugs are available at a party. Help your child/teen develop a comfortable way to refuse alcohol or other drugs.
- Provide opportunities for and encourage creative social activities without alcohol and drugs.
- Be aware of how your child/teen spends money.
- Do not leave teens unsupervised when you are away overnight.
When Your Teen is Going to a Party
- Plan in advance. Discuss the party plans with your teenager. Know the guest list, so you can prevent an "open party" situation.
- Set definite starting and ending times. Plan an activity such as swimming, skating, or renting movies. Consider a daytime party.
- Agree to rules ahead of time:
- No alcohol, other drugs or smoking
- No leaving, then returning to the party
- No gatecrashers allowed
- Lights will be left on
- Some rooms are off limits
- Know your responsibilities! Be visible and aware. You are legally responsible for anything that may happen to a minor who has been served drugs or alcohol in your home.
- Invite another parent or couple as company for you during a long evening, and to help if there are any problems. When parents deliver their teens to your house, invite them in to get acquainted, if only briefly.
When to Become Concerned
- Make sure there will be parental supervision and that no alcohol will be served. Checking with the parent whose home the party will be held at, may be helpful.
- Know where your daughter/son is going and with whom. When taking your teen to a party, go to the door and introduce yourself. If you already know the family, at least wait to see that s/he is inside the house.
- Make it easy for your teen to leave a party. Agree that s/he can call you (or another adult) to come for her/him if there is any reason why staying is uncomfortable.
- Urge your teen NEVER to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using drugs.
- Be awake to greet your teen when s/he comes home or request your teen wake you.
Some of the behaviors listed below may reflect the normal growing pains of adolescence, or, they may indicate alcohol and drug use or abuse or signs of emotional problems. The more behaviors listed below that your child displays or continues over time, the more important it becomes to seek help.
- Switching of friends and activities
- Being defensive or blaming others
- Defying rules and regulations
- Lying or being secretive
- Manipulating friends and family
- Changing eating habits
- Changing sleeping patterns
- Losing interest or initiative
- Having problems at school, including a drop in grades and cutting classes
- Verbally or physically abusing others
- Encountering legal problems
- Emotional outbursts
Confronting the Problem
- Coming home unusually giddy, drunk or high; slurring words, stumbling, appearing spaced out or hung over, being promiscuous, showing interest in witchcraft or the occult
- Being responsible for the disappearance of money, alcohol, prescription drugs, family possessions, or his own personal belongings; watering down of family liquor
- Possessing drug paraphernalia-rolling papers, pipes, clips, bongs, pills, drug magazines, drugs, bottles, drug-related jewelry or posters, baggies
- Drawing graffitti or doodling related to drugs; talking about drugs
- Wearing sunglasses and using eye drops to cover up red or glassy eyes or pupil changes
- Using breath mints, cigarettes, gum, heavy perfume or incense to cover the smell of alcohol or other drugs
- Changing personal habits or appearance, showing less interest in appearance
- Being compliant and agreeable, but failing to follow through with promises made
- Saying they are going to a place or event parents approve of, but consistently going somewhere else
- Sustaining frequent injuries or exhibiting signs of illness such as nausea, abdominal pains, persistent cough, sniffing, runny nose
- Showing signs of emotional distress, including depression, overwhelming anxiety, paranoia, extreme highs and lows
- Talking or writing about life not being worth living or suicide
- Self-mutilation such as self drawn tattoos, cigarette burns, writing on body
- Violent bursts of anger expressed by hitting family members and friends, punching walls, reckless driving at excessive speeds, promiscuous sex
Kids who use alcohol and other drugs come up with all kinds of excuses to deny their use or explain their use. Parents also come up with excuses to deny their kid's alcohol and/or other drug use. When you suspect drug or alcohol abuse, confront the fact and then work to solve the problem. The following guidelines may be helpful, but you may need to seek outside help in preparing to address the problem. (See Counseling and resources listed at the end of this section.)
Another Child's Use of Drugs
- Take time to recognize your own feelings so that you can attempt to discuss the subject calmly.
- Discuss and agree on a plan of action with spouse/significant other.
- Keep a written record of your observations.
- Talk to friends, family, and school personnel t
- see if they have noticed changes.
- When you address the problem, choose a time when your teen is not high on alcohol or other drugs.
- If denial persists, involve other concerned persons, such as relatives, clergy or school personnel.
- Focus on your concern for your teen's well being.
- Describe specific observations and concerns.
- Avoid accusations. They will only lead to denial.
- Let your teen know that you disapprove of her/his behavior, not of her/him.
- Be firm. Do not be intimidated or manipulated.
- Discuss the need for an evaluation with a chemical dependency counselor.
- Follow through! (See resources listed at the end of section)
If you have factual information that a child other than your own is using drugs, believe it is a potential health threat to that youth or would f eel guilty if that youth overdosed or was involved in a DWI, take action to help that child by telling her/his parents or teacher or counselor. If you are concerned you will break a "trust," sometimes you need to "expand" the numbers of people that are part of the trust, to save a life.
When we do nothing we support drug use and abuse among adolescents and give them a message that their behavior is OK. Everyone needs to get involved to stop drug abuse.
Effects on Youth of Family Drug Abuse
Children and teens are affected by the drug use and abuse of a parent or other
family member. One out of every eight Americans is the child of a parent who has or had an alcohol problem. Children of alcoholics and other drug abusers are prone to a wide range of problems, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and other stress related health problems. They often deal on a daily basis with fights, broken promises and inconsistent behavior by their parent(s). They also must deal with the fear, silence and shame that surrounds the "family secret". Many blame themselves for the problem.
It is extremely hard for the non-drug abusing parent to also deal with their significant other. They often feel the same embarrassment, frustration, confusion, and powerlessness as their children do.
Alcoholism and chemical dependency are diseases that affect the whole family and professional help is necessary. Talking to your child and connecting yourself and family with professional help to address the problem is important. The situation has to be brought out in the open so that family members can receive information and support to deal with the situation. Special support groups and treatment programs for the abuser and family exist in our community. Treatment can include support groups, counseling, inpatient, outpatient, and halfway houses. The following resources may be helpful.
For an alcohol or drug related emergency, call 911 or get to a hospital emergency room.
For more information about alcohol and other drugs, or about getting help with an alcohol or drug problem, call
For more information:
Answering Service: (315)789-5955
Alcoholics Anonymous is a self-help organization for recoving alcoholics. Call the phone number to receive information on local activities.
Council on Alcoholism and other Chemical Dependencies
The agency provides alcohol/drug abuse prevention and education and infomration and referral services. Programs are given on risk factors, specific durgs, and related topics such as alcoholism and the family, stress management, etc.
Family Counseling Service of the Finger Lakes
(315)789-2613 or (877)789-2613 toll free
Individual counseling, family counseling, play therapy, sexual abuse assessment and treatment, Hispanic youth groups.
FLACRA - Finger Lakes Alcoholism Counseling and Referral Agency
Outpatient counseling and detoxification for those aged 14 and older.
(800)310-1160 or TDD: (585)275-2700
Lifeline provides a variety of support and referral services including access to other agencies.
Park Ridge Chemical Dependency
Provides a wide range of services for those with chemical dependency problems.
Reality Check is a youth empowerment movement fighting the manipulative marketing practices of the tobacco industry through a variety of activities.
The Partnership for Ontario County Inc.
The Partnership does not provide direct services; it provides information on services which are available in the community.
Trauma and Substance Abuse Resource Center
The research-based program is designed to heighten awareness abaout trauma-related substance abuse, and to provide ideas and guidance to help mitigate the effects of trauma and abuse of alcohol and drugs.
The agency works in situations of high risk of substance use, initiation of substance use, substance abuse and substance dependency
The following brochures/pamphlets were consulted/adapted for this section:
Alcohol, Kids and Teenagers, New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol, Some Thoughts for Parents, New York State Division of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Drugs and Alcohol, a Middle School Parent's Guide, Brighton Central Schools.