Post by Sarah Wilde
You pick up your child and a friend from a party and notice something is off. Not with your child but with the friend who is sleeping over. What do you do? Shrug it off to teenage behavior? Let them sleep it off and pray your son/daughter finds new friends? You may think … “it’s not my child, who am I to say anything?” Well, one thing is certain: not being their parent may mean you have a bigger impact on this child than you estimated. You have the power to be a positive influence in this child’s life, as well as the obligation as a parent to protect your own child.
Research shows that kids start using drugs because they think it will help them feel better – especially from stress or depression, fit in, or they just want to take risks. Spending time with a friend who is using will increase the likelihood that your child will use too. Statistics show that every day approximately 4,500 Americans under 18 try marijuana for the first time. Treatment for marijuana is the primary reason children are admitted into treatment programs – more than for all other illicit drugs combined.
Scientific research tells us that addiction is not a matter of will and is actually a disease of the brain. While not all teenage drug or alcohol use will lead to addiction, there is no certainty over when use may turn to abuse or dependence. Regardless of full-blown addiction, many negative consequences may develop such as poor grades, loss of interest in athletics or extra-curriculars, problems at home or in relationships, even trouble with the law.
You can make a difference in the life of a child who is using. Sometimes kids aren’t aware of the harmful and lasting effects that can occur with drug use and need an understanding person to talk to. Many kids have parents with alcohol or drug problems of their own and alerting the parent isn’t going to help the matter. As an adult and parent there are resources available to you that will help you learn more about how to help children of substance abusers. The National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) can help – call 1-800-788-2800 or visit www.health.org.
If you have an open ear with the understanding parent of the child in question, talk with them. Explain everything you have used to educate yourself on the topic and explain what you know about the harms and consequences of even “recreational” use. Stay involved and it could be a matter of changing the course of both that child’s life and your own.