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How Concerned Should I Be
About My Teen’s Substance Use?

So your son or daughter has started vaping, using drugs or drinking. Is this just what kids do? Is it going to lead to other drugs, or become a problem? Don’t leave the answers to chance.

GOOD TO KNOW:
  • 90% of addictions start during the teen years.
  • Certain risk factors make some people more vulnerable to addiction.
  • It’s never too early to speak up and address teen substance use.
HOW TO ADDRESS TEEN SUBSTANCE USE:
HELP FOR PARENTS:

How Worried Do I Need to Be?

Ninety percent of addictions start during the teen years. Beginning at age 10 through the mid-20’s, massive changes are underway in the teen brain to develop capabilities related to impulse control, managing emotions, problem-solving and anticipating consequences. Substance use during this time period can prime the brain to be more susceptible to addiction and other mental health disorders, especially for kids who are more vulnerable.

How Do I Know if My Child is More Vulnerable to Addiction?

Any substance use has negative effects on a teen brain. But your child is more vulnerable to addiction if any of these risk factors are present:

  • Mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and/or ADHD
  • Family history of substance use disorders or other addictions related to gambling, food, sex, etc.
  • Past trauma, such as a family death; divorce; or verbal, physical or sexual abuse
  • An “addictive personality”, a term used by many parents to describe a child who often acts without concern for the consequences, has difficulty following or obeying rules, and is engaged in other risky behaviors.

If any of these are a factor for your child, it’s especially important to take any substance use seriously, and act.

Courtesy of the Partnership for Drug-free Kids

Summer Safety!
As we know, the summer is a more relaxed time and teenagers often have a lot of unstructured time which can present challenges for parents as teens have more opportunities to gather in unsupervised settings where no responsible adults are present.

During the summer, parents need to be particularly alert to what their children are doing, where they are going and who they are spending time with during their vacation. Those students who are moving from the eighth to ninth grade and twelfth grade to college are vulnerable as transitions are identified as a time when teens are more likely to begin or increase their use of alcohol and other drugs. Research also shows that the summer is the time that many teens try alcohol and marijuana for the first time.

There is concern among substance abuse prevention professionals about recent trends that make this summer a time when parents need to be aware of the activities of their children.  The legalization of marijuana in some states and the approval of medical marijuana has contributed to the decreased perception of harm of marijuana use among teens. Research has shown that when the perception of harm declines, the use rises. 

E-Cigarettes The use of e-cigarettes has exploded in RI. Many parents and students do not realize that there are great concerns about the use this method of using nicotine and/or marijuana. There are concerns about the act of inhaling a foreign substance into the lungs and there are additional concerns that are related to the substance that the person is inhaling. Since the phenomena of vaping is relatively new, there is not yet any research-based information about the long term impact of vaping.  

There is concern that when a young person vapes nicotine, they are using a powerful stimulant that is addictive and can impair the developing brain. Even if they don’t have nicotine in them, they can have other chemicals, or produce other chemicals, that are known to be cancer causing – such as formaldehyde. Students may also be vaping marijuana and there are significant dangers to using this drug as well.

Finally, the drug of choice for most teens is alcohol.  The informality of summer provides opportunities for teens to get alcohol.  Anecdotally, there is often an increase in alcohol poisoning as inexperienced teens misjudge the intoxicating impact of alcohol and end up in the emergency department.
 
So What Can Parents Do to
Prevent Summer Substance Use?
Aware! Every family should have a strategy so that they know where their teen is and who they are with during the day and at night. Be sure to check-in with other parents and make sure that all the teens are in a supervised setting with a responsible adult.  It is usually in unchaperoned settings that many teens first try alcohol and drugs. 

Awake! When your children get home, give them a hug or a kiss and talk to them for a few minutes to make sure they are not under the influence of any substance. It may be a deterrent  if they know that they will have to pass the “hug/kiss/talk” test when they get home.  

Assertive! Make sure you and your child have discussed appropriate consequences for inappropriate and unhealthy behavior. The consequences should be timely, time appropriate, firm, respectful and related to the behavior. Furthermore, although this can be difficult, the consequences must be enforced.

Affirming! Let your teen know that you love them and want them to have a wonderful summer. Help them understand that they are the most precious people in your life and if they feel that you are being too protective, it is because it is your job to keep them safe.
Risks of Vapes and RI High School Youth
Click Here 


Have a Teen Going to College?

Your Top Three Questions Answered

When your teen starts college, you will likely have hundreds of questions running through your mind. Even though you have always known what is best for your child, this time is challenging and constantly changing. There are many different ways to support your student once they are in college and there is value in any kind of support you provide, whether it’s financial, emotional or other forms. There is not going to be a perfect answer for every one of your questions, but here is some guidance on how to answer three questions that almost all parents have at some point. 

Top Three Question and some guidance!
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