As parents, we worry about our children’s use of cigarettes, alcohol and other drugs. The 2013 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 30% of all 9-12 graders drank alcohol in the past month. More than half of these students had five or more drinks of alcohol in a row within a couple of hours, on one or more of the past 30 days. Cigarette smoking on one or more of the past 30 days was reported by 19% of students and marijuana was used one or more times during the past 30 days by 21% of all students. Almost 13% of students have used prescription painkillers such as Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin or Codeine without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their life. These numbers show that the use of alcohol and other drugs is common in high school, and that any student is likely to be exposed to one of these drugs before graduating.
How can parents help their children make healthy decisions in their lives? Family discussions about the negative consequences of alcohol and other drug use should occur early in childhood. Parental expectations should be clearly stated frequently to let children know their parents beliefs. Patterning of responsible use of alcohol and minimal to no use of cigarettes and marijuana should be demonstrated by parents. As children grow older extracurricular activities can give students things to do and achievements to pursue rather than allowing boredom to drive substance use. Get to know your children’s friends and their families, avoiding exposure to people that might increase your child’s chance of using drugs.
How can you spot possible drug use in your own child? Look for:Behavioral changes:
Being unusually clumsy or lacking coordination
New hostility or anger
Loud or obnoxious behavior
Being deceitful or secretive
School or work changes:
Truancy or loss of interest in schoolwork
Drop in grades
Failure to fulfill responsibilities at work or school
Personal appearance changes:
Unusually messy, careless appearance
Red, flushed cheeks or face
Poor hygiene, and burns or soot on fingers or lips
Personal habit changes including:
Smell of smoke on the breath or clothes
Avoiding eye contact
Secretive phone calls
Heavy use of over-the-counter preparations to reduce things like:
Steven C. Matson, MD, is interim chief of the Section of Adolescent Health at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.
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