Addictive substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other drugs are accessible to West Virginia adolescents and use can have severe consequences. The use of these substances can begin in the teenage years, so it is crucial parents understand that teens who experiment with these substances are putting their health and safety at risk and increasing their chances of becoming dependent on them.
At Seneca Health Services, we understand the importance of substance use prevention for members of our communities, in particular our young people. We work to provide accessible and responsible services to those battling a substance use disorder. Continue reading to learn more about how to prevent drug and substance use in teens and how to identify signs of substance use.
Substance Use in Teens
Substance use among teens is probably more common than you realize. Check out these statistics from the CDC, which highlight the extent of the problem:
- The most commonly used substances by adolescents are alcohol, marijuana and tobacco.
- By 12th-grade, about two-thirds of students have tried alcohol.
- About half of 9th through 12th-grade students reported having used marijuana.
- About four in ten 9th through 12th-grade students reported having tried cigarettes.
- Approximately two in ten 12-grade students reported using prescription medicine without a prescription.
- Adolescents and young adults ranging from 12 to 20 years of age consume about one-tenth of all alcohol consumed in the United States.
There are a variety of factors that contribute to teen substance use. First-time use often occurs in social situations where there is a desire for acceptance among peers. In these types of situations, substances like alcohol and illicit drugs are easily accessible and adults are typically not present.
Other common causes of continued drug and substance use in teens include:
- Family history of substance abuse
- Mental or behavioral health conditions, such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Impulsive or risk-taking behavior
- History of traumatic events, such as experiencing a car accident or being a victim of abuse
- Low self-esteem or feelings of social rejection
If teens become involved in substance use, the effects can be severe, permanent and damaging to themselves and those around them.
Negative consequences of drug and substance use in teens include:
- Drug dependence
- Poor judgment in social and personal situations
- High-risk sexual activity
- Growth and development problems, especially brain development
- Increased risk of or complications with mental health disorders
- Development of adult health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and sleep disorders
- Impaired driving
- A decline in school performance
Be aware that the earlier an individual begins using addictive drugs or substances, the greater their chances are of continued use and addiction in the future.
To properly recognize teen substance use, look for these warning signs:
- A sudden or extreme change in friends, eating habits, sleeping patterns, physical appearance, coordination or school performance
- Irresponsible behavior, poor judgment and general lack of interest
- Breaking the rules or withdrawing from the family
- The presence of medicine containers, despite a lack of illness, or drug paraphernalia in your teen’s room
If you notice any combination of these symptoms or behaviors, make sure to address the problem with your teenager by speaking calmly, coming from a place of concern and sharing specific details to verify your suspicions.
Prevention starts with parents. As a parent, it is critical to realize that you have a significant impact on your child’s decision not to use addictive substances. Therefore, it is essential to start having conversations with your child about the dangers of alcohol and drugs early and often, even at the grade school level. Don’t wait until alcohol, tobacco or drugs have already been offered to them to have the conversation. Instead, prepare them for a time in the future when they will be offered drugs or other substances. It is never too soon to start talking with your child about how to say no.
Check out these tips for some ways you can talk to your child about drugs:
- Ask for your child’s views
- Assure your child that he or she can be honest with you
- Discuss reasons not to use drugs
- Consider media messages
- Discuss ways to resist peer pressure
- Be ready to discuss your own drug use
Further prevention strategies include:
- Be aware of your child’s activities
- Establish rules and consequences
- Know your child’s friends
- Keep track of prescription drugs
- Provide support
- Set a good example
Seeking Professional Help | Seneca Health Services
Substance use disorders are a disease, and like many other medical conditions, they are treatable. If you think your teenager may have a substance use disorder or is using alcohol or drugs, you should seek help from a physician, licensed therapist or other health care provider.
At Seneca Health Services, we have over 40 years of experience providing behavioral health services throughout southeastern West Virginia. Our staff is experienced in the assessment and counseling of adolescents engaged in substance use. When necessary, we also provide referrals to inpatient facilities. Additionally, we have the resources to address the unique problems of which the children of individuals with substance use disorder suffer.
We are here to lend support to you or someone you care for that is suffering from a substance use disorder or engaged in substance use. If you or someone you know needs help, please do not hesitate to contact the Seneca office nearest you or use the link provided here.
Greenbrier County, West Virginia: 304.497.0500
Nicholas County, West Virginia: 304.872.2659
Pocahontas County, West Virginia: 304.799.6865
Webster County, West Virginia: 304.847.5425