As a parent, you never imagine that your child will grow up and struggle with substance abuse. However, in reality, it happens more often than you think. Drugs are everywhere. Even if you live in a safe and friendly neighborhood, your child will likely be exposed to drugs at some point during their childhood.
You want to do everything in your power to protect your children. Fortunately, there are ways to prepare your children to make good choices in their lives. Although you don’t have complete control over your children, what you say and do early on can significantly impact their future decisions about things like drugs.
To lessen your children’s chances of choosing to use drugs, here’s what you need to know about substance abuse.
Learn the Types of Drugs
If you want to help prevent your child from using substances, you should learn the types of drugs available in your region. Knowing what kinds of drugs are available and their effects on your children can help you better prepare a conversation to have with your kids.
Some of the most common that can lead to further problems are alcohol, depressants, marijuana and amphetamines. Even caffeine in high amounts can lead to addiction and substance abuse.
Talk to Your Children Before They’re Exposed
When your kids are young, even before they’re exposed to substances, have an open and honest conversation about drugs and substance abuse. If you’re direct about the topic, they’ll be more likely to respect your rules about drugs and alcohol.
Instead of shying away from the subject or letting your child’s school teach them about it, start young and have regular conversations about drugs. You can better protect your kids from the high risks of substance abuse.
Children May Try Substances at a Young Age
Although you do have open conversations about drug use when your children are young, that doesn’t entirely mean that they won’t try substances at some point. Children in elementary school can start positively viewing alcohol, especially if surrounded by media or people who promote it.
Again, the earlier you start talking to them about drugs and alcohol, the better. Be a constant reminder of the effects drugs can have on their minds and bodies.
Parents Have an Influence on Their Children’s Decisions
You, as a parent, are one of the most influential people for your children. They look up to you for nearly everything. If you’re abusing substances, they’ll be more likely to try drugs and alcohol since children tend to mimic parental behaviors.
However, if you create a nurturing and supportive environment, your kids will make better decisions overall. Children listen to their parents, whether you think so or not, so that’s why it’s essential to model behavior that you want your child to do as well.
Substance Abuse Affects Your Child’s Education
If your child gets involved in drugs, they will suffer in their education. Using illegal substances alters the brain, leading to children failing classes and skipping school. The brain is still developing through the teenage years and doesn’t fully develop until 25 years of age. Any trauma during development can affect brain function.
Drugs interfere with the normal patterns of brain transmitters. Teens who abuse drugs usually have lower grades, an increased chance of dropping out and absence from school and activities.
Drugs Lead to Dangerous Situations
Drug abuse has serious consequences. The dangers of the drug are highly dependent on the type of drug used, how much is taken, how often it is taken and the setting, but drugs are never 100% safe. Drugs change the brain, which makes it harder for people to make safe decisions.
Over time, substance abuse can cause health problems like irregular heart rate, high blood pressure and lung damage. Additionally, it can cause injury if used in an already unsafe situation. Sometimes, drugs can even lead to death or overdose. There are also consequences like becoming pregnant, losing friendships and being involved in crimes.
Recognize the Signs and Symptoms of Drug Abuse
Recognizing the signs and symptoms of drug use and abuse can help if your child were to become exposed to drugs or involved in using them. Knowing the symptoms can prevent further destruction to your child’s body if you suspect they abuse drugs. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of drug abuse:
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Unusual odors on the body and breath
- Sudden changes in friend relationships
- Skipping school
- Mood swings and irritability
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation
- Engaging in suspicious and secretive behaviors
- Declining physical appearance and grooming habits
If you notice any of these in your children, it’s time to have a conversation with them about potential substance abuse. It’s better to detect early on than for it to be too late.
You Can Get Help for Your Child
If you suspect that your child has been using substances, know that you can get help. Try to understand the situation and start a conversation with them. Address their behavior and set clear limits about what you expect them to do. If they’re involved in opioids, reach out to your family doctor so they can get you in touch with a rehabilitation center.