The prevention of drug abuse, especially by young people, is an aim everyone tries to achieve, with variable success. This usually involves teenagers facing the difficulties of psychosomatic growth, whose personality and identity is evolving while they strive for respect and acceptance by their peers and environment in general.
Many think that "drugs" only refers to illegal substances. But there can also be legal drugs such as cigarettes or alcohol, which in turn could lead to a quest for stronger, illegal substances, especially at a young age.
Even when there is the right education and upbringing from the family, positively influencing the young person's character and values, almost no parent can have absolute control over where their child is and what he or she does.
This is constantly verified by new research which shows the true proportions of the problem of drug abuse in our country, especially among young people, proving it is a social phaenomenon.
According to the latest studies, such as the one by the University Research Institute for Psychological Health (EPIPSY), the majority of youngsters, nearly 52%, have been offered drugs by a friend or acquaintance, whereas 12,3% have used drugs.
Also, it is worrying that 32% do not know where to turn to for help or information, while 79% of youngsters believe it is easy to find drugs.
As for smoking, it is a worrying fact that 8% of teenagers starts smoking regularly by the age of 13, while 1 in 4 boys and 1 in 5 girls aged 15 drink at least 3 drinks in a row every time they go out. This is proven by the fact that at least 2 out of 5 teenagers aged 15 have been drunk at least once.
Research also shows that the chances of a teenager starting to smoke are 11 times higher if someone in their environment also smokes, 2 times higher if their older siblings smoke, almost 6 times higher if they also consume illegal substances, 4 times higher if they drink coffee, and 2.4 times higher if they drink alcohol. Which proves how important not only the family, but also the overall environment can be in determining a youth's habits and addictions.
You should therefore not hold yourselves responsible if your child has become addicted, but instead try to help him.
The reasons which lead youths to drugs can be varied: it could be mere curiosity, a feeling of neglect or marginalisation, reaction to the family, divorced parents or broken families, revolt against society or authority as well as a weak personality. In a recent study about the reasons which lead them to drugs, 25,4% of youngsters said it was curiosity, 12,4% ignorance, while 25% claimed it was the need to be different and "trendy".
Young people may believe that drugs will solve their problems and make them feel better. But they do not realise that in effect they are self-destructive.
The biggest problem and question for every parent in the particular case is whether the symptoms a child shows are because of drug abuse or normal reactions associated with teen age.
Issues related to change of behaviour, such as isolation, nervousness, extreme sensitivity, low self-esteem, aggression, stress, depression, can easily appear in cases where the child is using drugs.
Generally, cases where there is significant change in physical appearance, behaviour, personality and mood, should always draw the parents' attention and be duly scrutinised.
The symptoms and "signs" which usually accompany drug abuse, are divided into two main categories, physical and psychological.
The physical symptoms could be:
Anorexia or sudden increase in appetite, change in dietary habits, inexplicable weight gain or loss.
Insomnia or Hypersomnia
Red or extremely moist eyes, lost gaze
Hyperactivity or the child is extremely talkative
Marks on the hands, arms, legs or feet
Extreme perspiration for no apparent reason
Shaking and shivering
The psychological symptoms could be:
Change in behaviour and personality for no apparent reason
Change of hobbies or activities
Dropping grades, lower achievement and attendance at school
Change of habits at home, lack of interest for the family and family activities
Difficulty concentrating and remembering
Lack of energy and self-respect, general indifference
Sudden spouts of hypersensitivity and anger
Bad mood, ill temper and nervousness
Suspicious or secretive behaviour
Inexplicable need for money
As mentioned earlier, all of these symptoms or signs might have nothing to do with drugs. We should therefore not jump to conclusions which could alienate your child even further from your family and harm your relationship.
If however you do suspect something, you can come to us for help. We will investigate the case in depth, always in discretion and confidentiality for you and your child, and inform you so you can take all the necessary measures and help from specialists where needed.
Because even if your suspicions are proven wrong, prevention is the best ally against drugs, while you also show your interest for your children and their future.