Although you may believe that drug use won’t affect your family, substance misuse is far more common than many parents appreciate. For instance, a report by the SAMHSA highlighted that in 2013 there were close to 25 million current drug users in the US, which is more than 9% of the population. While marijuana is the most commonly abused substance among young people, significant numbers also abuse prescription drugs, and a smaller number take cocaine, other stimulants and heroin. As drug abuse may begin as young as 12 years of age, you should discuss the subject with your children long before they are even tempted to try a joint. If you do not feel confident raising the issue, learning as much as you can about substance abuse can help and makes sure you are well prepared to offer your kids all the facts about drugs they need to make a positive choice.
Substance Abuse Facts
A lot of myths about drug use exist, which can encourage young people to take drugs, believing that they are safer than in reality. It is important you are aware of common drug myths so that you can put your kids right and make sure they have all the information they need to make an informed decision. If you are unsure of the misconceptions about drugs that exist, St Mary’s College of California has a resource that outlines some of the most widely reported drug myths. Therefore, if your children wrongly think that teens are too young to develop an addiction or that the drugs they get from their friends must be safe, you can easily dispel these untruths.
You should familiarize yourself with the different groups of drugs that are commonly abused, as you may find that it isn’t cannabis, coke or heroin that your children are offered. As Eastern Washington University explains, substances can be classified as outlined here:
- Anabolic steroids: These enhance muscle size and performance, so are sometimes abused by teenage boys keen to bulk up or excel at sport.
- Cannabinoids: Produced from hemp these produce feelings of well-being. They include marijuana and its extracted resin hashish.
- Depressants: These slow down the body’s nervous system, but also relieve anxiety and stress. They include barbiturates, benzodiazepines and tranquilizers like Valium.
- Hallucinogens: These change the senses and perception, and include LSD and magic mushrooms.
- Opioids: Besides relieving pain, they offer an intense high. Beyond heroin, prescription opioids include codeine, fentanyl, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine and oxycodone.
- Stimulants: These quicken the responses of the nervous system and make users feel energized. Examples include amphetamines, cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy and Ritalin.
As well as knowing how different types of illegal drugs affect the body, you should be aware that there are various other factors that influence the action of drugs. While the drug dosage is an obvious factor, Indiana University discusses that the route of administration also has an important effect. For instance, taking cocaine orally acts more slowly than if you snort it, though injecting crack produces even quicker effects. Your children shouldn’t just be familiar with the short-term effects of drug taking, as while a single use can produce serious and potentially fatal side-effects, chronic use can have a devastating impact on long-term health.
Drug Addiction Facts
While your kids may never think that their teenage drug use puts them at higher risk of addiction, this is indeed the case. As a Government resource on teens and drug use points out, using marijuana before the age of 15 makes them more than four times as likely to suffer from drug dependency as an adult than people who didn’t try marijuana till they were at least 18. Early exposure to cannabis can also interfere with brain growth and development, so it is not the harmless substance that many young people believe.
Although addiction undoubtedly takes its toll on health, you should also make sure your children appreciate the wider consequences of drug dependency, particularly those areas that are of particular relevance or interest to them. A White House report on the consequences of drug abuse points out some of the additional implications of this. For example, there is link between academic achievement and drug abuse, so if your kids are keen to do well at school and go on to college, this is one way to motivate them to stay clear of drugs. Alternatively, if your children care about the environment, you can discuss the environmental impact of drug cultivation and production, as growing coca and opium poppies significantly contributes to deforestation in South America, and toxic waste from meth labs is an issue in parts of the US.