Marijuana Parent Prevention Toolkit


Marijuana Parent Prevention Toolkit

Even though the number of teens smoking marijuana has dropped since the 1990s, smoking marijuana is still a prevalent and dangerous problem for teens. Parents, by having a well-organized toolkit of information and resources, you can talk to your teen about marijuana and can ensure that they are one of the smart teens who never lights up or takes a puff in the first place.

Talking to Your Teen about Marijuana

In 2012, recreational marijuana smoking became legal in Colorado and Washington; other states have also since legalized it. The result of legalization lends to the narrative that smoking marijuana is okay. Those who support legalizing marijuana point out that marijuana is not as dangerous as other drugs, which somehow makes it okay. Some argue that the drug is not dangerous at all.

This information is what your teen hears, and unless you talk to your teen about marijuana, that is all that they hear. You have the power to influence your teen. In fact, according to a study conducted by Columbia University, teens that choose to be drug free say that their parents are the number one influencers in that decision. Other studies show that:

·         Parents who talk to their children about using drugs are less likely to use drugs

·         Teens who have regular family meals are less likely to ever smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs

When you do talk to your teen about smoking pot, talk to them about the facts.

Side Effects of Smoking Marijuana

Marijuana’s Effects on Your Teen’s Mental Health

Your parent prevention toolkit should be packed with information that combats and contradicts the things people who support marijuana legalization and usage say. Again, your teen hears that marijuana isn’t addictive or doesn’t lead to traffic accidents or doesn’t have long-term side effects; however, studies reveal otherwise:

·         Teen brains aren’t finished developing until the mid 20s and sometimes-early 30s; early exposure to marijuana could change brain development.

·         Teens who started smoking before age 16 did worse on cognitive tests of brain function in areas related to planning, abstract thinking, understanding rules, and inhibiting inappropriate responses.

·         The negative impacts on memory and learning can last days or weeks and can make learning new information, completing tasks, or stringing together sequential information challenging.

·         Marijuana negatively impacts learning and memory and is shown to lead to decreased IQ among teens who regularly smoke.

·         Roughly one in six who start smoking marijuana at an earlier age are more likely to become addicted.

How Marijuana Affects Your Teen Physically

As though the short and long-term damages to mental health aren’t enough, there are other outcomes directly related to smoking marijuana that can shorten your teen’s lifespan. For example:

·         Marijuana really does make users bigger threats on the road as it leads to impaired judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time.

·         Marijuana use increases the risk of cardiorespiratory disease and testicular cancer.

The Real Facts about Today’s Marijuana

Today’s Marijuana is Stronger and More Dangerous

Your teen might be curious to know why the facts about marijuana have seemingly changed. The reality is that today’s marijuana is stronger and more likely to be laced with synthetic chemicals that mimic marijuana’s effects but that are infinitely more dangerous and that are potentially deadly.

·         THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marujuana) was 1.3% in 1978; in 2013, it was on average 15% and sometimes over 30%.

·         Marijuana edibles like cookies and chocolate are usually 10 times stronger than what kids smoke.

·         K2 and Spice, which are labeled as not being for human consumption, are often laced into marijuana mixtures.

·         Effects of synthetic chemicals, which often change from batch-to-batch include rapid heart rate, vomiting, violent behavior, and suicidal thoughts

The reality is that marijuana is addictive; next to alcohol, marijuana is the leading cause of substance dependence. A 2013 study showed that marijuana use accounted for 4.2 million of the 6.9 million dependent upon or using an illicit drug.

That is a key message to drive home to your teen: marijuana is still illegal in most states, so even if the very real potential health consequences don’t seem to influence your teen, remind them that illegal drug usage can send them to jail.

Signs of Marijuana Use in Teens

In addition to being proactive about talking to your teen about smoking marijuana, it is useful to be aware of potential behavioral changes in your teen or their friends that indicate they are doing drugs. Signs include:

·         Changes in mood, interest in former hobbies, academic performance, sleeping patterns, and friends or other once-steady relationships.

·         Red eyes, dizziness or poor coordination, giddiness, and poor memory

·         Odor on clothes or in car / bedroom.

Keep in mind that marijuana concentrates (butane hash oil) can used (with no telltale odor) in vaporizing pens now popular among many young people.

When it comes to preventing teen marijuana use, the best tool in your parental kit is communication. Spend quality time with your teen. Talk to them. Show a genuine interest in their lives. They listen. If your job to make sure that what they are listening to you is you and not someone else.

Having a well-stocked toolkit of facts and information related to smoking marijuana and being willing to communicate are things parents need to keep their teens safe from drugs. The Walton County Prevention Coalition (WCPC) is dedicated to supporting parents in helping teens make good decisions. Visit the WCPC website for additional resources useful for ensuring your teen never inhales (not even once). 


Talk. They Hear You. by SAMHSA


Talk. They Hear You. by SAMHSA

Talk. They hear you is a national media campaign launched by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aimed toward giving parents and caregivers support in starting the conversation with their children about the dangers of alcohol. SAMHSA provides resources such as the Talk. They Hear You (TTHY) role-playing app, action plans, fact sheets, and more, all of which helps parents and caregivers confidently and assertively talk to children about underage drinking.  

When to Talk to Kids about Alcohol

According to SAMHSA, 9-15 are crucial ages in starting the discussion about drinking. At around age nine is usually when it occurs to children that alcohol may not be just for adults. By 15, those curious kids are already drinking. Studies support that young people who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to struggle with alcohol problems as adults versus those who don’t begin drinking until they’re 21 or older. 

Prevalence and Risk of Underage Drinking

According to a national survey, in 2013, 8.7 million children between ages 12 to 20 reported consuming alcohol within the past month of the survey. Roughly 5.4 million of those youth were binge drinkers and 3.7 million were heavy drinkers. The earlier children start drinking, the more likely it is that they will become binge drinkers; binge drinking means consuming 4-5 alcoholic beverages in a two-hour period. 

Hazards of Underage Drinking

When young people binge drink, they do lasting damage to their brains’ white and grey matter. This negatively influences spatial reasoning, attention, decision-making, impulse control, and other important cognitive functions. Brain damaging side effects can be life long. Additional dangers related to underage drinking include:
•    Getting bad grades and other academic problems
•    A greater likelihood of trying or abusing other drugs
•    An increased chance of engaging in risky sexual activity that is unintended, unwanted, or unprotected
•    Higher chance of suffering injury or death as a result of accidents
The risks increase the earlier drinking starts, which is why it is important to start talking to children early about underage drinking. Parents and caregivers are the most important and respected lines of defense in preventing underage drinking.

Resources to Help Parents Take Action

Many parents want to talk to their kids about drinking; however, they aren’t sure where to start the conversation, how to approach the topic in a way that will reach children, or what information is appropriate to share with children. 

Tips for Talk to Kids about Underage Drinking 

Set goals for talking to children about underage drinking. Five recommended goals are:
•    Show you don’t approve of underage drinking; over 80% of children ages 10-18 report their parents are the main influence in whether or not they drink.
•    Show your child that you care about their happiness and well-being. You’re on their side; let them know that your stance on drinking is because you want them to be happy and safe.
•    Show your child that you know what you’re talking about when it comes to underage drinking. Establish yourself as a knowledgeable authority on the subject of alcohol by arming yourself with defensible facts and information. Your child will hear about alcohol from peer influencers as well; make sure they see you as one who they can turn to as a trustworthy source of information.
•    Show you’re paying attention to your child because children most often try to drink when and if they think no one is watching.
•    Give you children skills and tactics for avoiding the pressures of underage drinking. Peer pressure can compel kids who never want to take the first sip to drink, and it’s a slippery slope from there. Help your child build and practice skills.

Apps for Adults and Children

To help adults know what to say and for children to learn more about alcohol’s harmful effects, SAMHSA has created two apps. One is the Talk. They Hear You (TTHY) app, which is an interactive mobile application that uses avatars to help adults learn what to do and what not to do when it comes to talking to children about underage drinking. 

The other is the Alcohol’s Effects on the Brain (AlcoholFX) app. This free app is science-based Reach Out Now mobile app for tablets that educates students ages 10-12 on how alcohol harms their developing brains. 

Before your children download the AlcoholFX app, talk to them about the information it contains; doing so will help your children recognize you as an authority figure. Whatever you do, don’t wait to start the conversation with your children about how alcohol can harm them.

Engage with other proactive parents by using the #WeTalked hashtag to share the steps and story you’re taking to prevent underage drinking.

Underage drinking can have lasting effects, which is why it’s important for parents and caregivers to be able to help children resist peer pressure and to never drink in the first place. The Walton County Prevention Coalition (WCPC) is dedicated to supporting parents and children in talking openly and in making good choices when it comes to avoiding underage drinking. Visit the WCPC website for additional resources.


What is the Walton County Prevention Coalition?

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What is the Walton County Prevention Coalition?

The WCPC is the Walton County Prevention Coalition, an organization dedicated to giving members of the Walton County community support and resources necessary for helping children make good decisions when it comes to drugs, alcohol, and tobacco. The WCPC’s mission is prevention through communication and information. 

About the WCPC

Established in 2003, the Walton County Prevention Coalition’s mission has been to ensure the health and safety of the community’s youth. The WCPC’s motto is “Working together as one to improve a community for all.” 

The WCPC is comprised of concerned Walton County citizens who work with parents, local leaders, and youth to provide prevention services to youth and families and improve and to strengthen the community. Specifically, currently, coalition partners are:
•    15 youth members
•    8 parent members
•    6 school representative members
•    6 government agency members
•    5 other agencies reducing substances members
•    2 business community members
•    6 youth-serving agency members
•    3 civic / volunteer members
•    8 law enforcement members
•    2 media representative members
•    4 healthcare professional members
•    4 religious community members

More specific details about team members and sector representatives are on the WCPC About Us webpage. Team members’ collective professional expertise and experience comes from areas including counseling, education, law enforcement, public service, and more.

The Mission of the WCPC

The WCPC’s mission is “to reduce substance abuse for youth and families by developing an anti-drug coalition, which will be a cross-section collaboration of community entities. The coalition is tasked to strengthen efforts among public and private agencies so as to address environmental factors by identifying and maximizing resources and public awareness to reduce substance abuse among youth and families.” 

Thus, the WCPC focuses the majority of its outreach on educating parents, adults, and teachers on how to speak to youth and on the importance and value of communicating with youth on the dangers of:
•    Underage drinking
•    Underage drug use
•    Underage smoking

Information, support, and resources pertain to the short and long-term effects of such behaviors as well as the life-long damages engaging in these behaviors is proven to result in. The coalition also educates parents and families on how influential they are in the lives of youth and children and how they can use that influence to reduce and to prevent substance abuse among young people.

WCPC Strategies & Outreach

In the WCPC’s six-month review conducted between February and July 2016, the coalition reportedly:
•    Provided services to 2,258 adults
•    Provided services to 1,789 youth

Additionally, the Walton County Prevention Coalition:
•    Provided information through:
o    4 community events
o    4 speaking engagements
o    159 Facebook posts reaching 36,252 people

•    Enhanced skills through:
o    2 youth educational sessions
o    3 community educational sessions
o    3 business educational sessions

•    Provided support through:
o    1 alcohol and drug free events for youth
o    4 recreational programs
o    32 community involvement activities

•    Enhanced access / reduced barriers with 10 compliance checks

•    Changed physical design through:
o    90 environmental scans
o    15 business sight surveys

•    Modified / changed policies by passing 10 workplace policies

The coalition seeks community support in the form of volunteers, donations, and taking the abstinence pledge to stay away from smoking, drugs, and alcohol.

The Walton County Prevention Coalition is dedicated to its mission, message, and outreach. The coalition aims to strengthen the decisions made by members of the Walton community “one youth at a time.” To learn more about the WCPC or how you can help the organization grow in size and strength, visit the WCPC website and become a force for positive change in Walton County.


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Reality Check: Social Smoking IS a Big Deal


Reality Check: Social Smoking IS a Big Deal

A “social smoker” is basically defined as being someone who doesn’t smoke every day. A social smoker may smoke a few cigarettes on night, then not smoke for days or weeks afterwards. This belief that social smoking is somehow safer than being a regular smoker is a dangerous perception among our youth. Teenagers think that a few cigarettes are harmless as long as they don’t smoke cigarettes every single day. Let’s talk about social smoking and how even an occasional cigarette can be damaging to your health and future.

Reasons Why People Smoke Socially

If you don’t consider yourself to be a “regular smoker,” then why even smoke at all? Here are some reasons why some people may decide to indulge in the occasional cigarette.

·         They believe that if they only smoke occasionally, they won’t become addicted.

·         They believe that the health risks involved with smoking only applies to “regular smokers.”

·         They give into peer pressure and want to fit in with the rest of the crowd.

·         Drinking alcohol produces an urge for some people to smoke, so they choose to limit themselves to smoking cigarettes only when they drink alcohol.

It’s time for social smokers to get the reality check that they need. Smoking, regardless of how often, is dangerous to your health. Let’s talk about the reality behind each of these reasons for social smoking.

Social Smoking Isn’t Addictive

This couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, those that participate in social smoking are highly likely to become addicted. Nicotine is one of the most highly addictive drugs of our society. You may think that you have control over your cigarette habit, but it is only a matter of time before you lose all control and buying cigarettes becomes a routine part of your day. When that day comes, you will regret the day that you ever picked up your first cigarette.

Social Smoking is Harmless to Your Health

Even if you are smoking “every now and then” you are still subject to physical consequences.

·         You are still exposed to the chemicals such as arsenic, lead and mercury.

·         It only takes one cigarette to experience a spike in blood pressure.

·         Simply being exposed to 30 minutes of secondhand smoke can cause heart damage similar to that of an everyday smoker.

·         Social smoking puts you just as much at risk of developing lung and/or other cancers as daily smoking.

Social Smoking is Cool – Everyone is Doing It

This perception is very common among teenagers and young adults and is sometimes hard to argue with when it is so common among our youth. The best way to argue this point is to explain some of the reasons why smoking is NOT COOL.

·         Is it cool to have yellow teeth?

·         Is it cool for people to avoid you because your clothes reek of cigarette smoke?

·         Is it cool for the inside of your mouth to smell like an ashtray?

·         Is it cool to hack up phlegm on a first date to the movies?

My advice is this: Talk to your friends who DON’T smoke – chances are, they can tell you how UNCOOL smoking really is.

I Only Smoke When I Drink

This is a way for social smokers to convince themselves that they aren’t addicted, but the reality of it is – if you crave a cigarette for ANY reason, you are indeed addicted. It’s as simple as that.

It’s time for the social smokers of the world to face reality – you are putting your life at risk with each cigarette that you smoke, regardless of how often it occurs. Start today and let your last cigarette be just that – YOUR LAST CIGARETTE.

The Walton County Prevention Coalition is dedicated to fighting against substance abuse issues in our youth. Smoking tobacco is a huge pressure for teenagers and young adults in today’s society. It is important for us to start educating our kids at a young age regarding the dangers of cigarettes and e-cigarettes.  Learn more about our organization.


Substance Abuse and Suicide: Is Your Teen at Risk?


Substance Abuse and Suicide: Is Your Teen at Risk?

Youth suicide is a topic lacking in common conversation. It seems as if this topic only comes up after a tragedy occurs and hits the news (and too close to home). There are a lot of risk factors that can lead to teen suicide such as bullying, family problems, eating disorders and a number of other things; however, substance abuse is also a very common cause for teenage suicide. It is important for parents to recognize the warning signs, know when their children are suffering and be able to prevent these types of tragedies if at all possible.

The Statistics

·         According to data released by the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.

·         More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, influenza, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke and pneumonia combined.

·         There are 5,400 suicide attempts each day by children and young adults in grades 7-12.

·         Studies have shown that 4 out of 5 youth suicide attempts were preceded by clear warning signs.

The Warning Signs

It is important for parents to know the warning signs and to be able to recognize abnormal behavioral patterns that could possibly lead to suicide attempts. Some of these warning signs could include, but are not limited to –

·         Comments about feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless

·         Talking about suicide during casual conversation

·         Extreme shifts in behavior

·         Sudden lack of interest in normal activities and hobbies

·         Withdrawal from interaction with family and/or friends

If any of these symptoms are accompanied by suspicions or knowledge of alcohol or drug abuse, problems at home (divorce,etc), issues with bullying, or any other problems that your child may be facing, it is important to seek help and talk to your child about these problems. According to The Jason Foundation, alcohol and drug use are associated with 50-67% of suicides.

What Can You Do to Help?

Suspecting that your child could be at risk of attempting suicide is a very scary feeling. It is important as parents to be prepared in knowing how to deal with situations like this when they arise. Here are some tips on how to handle the situation if you feel that your child is at risk.

·         Remain calm and avoid reacting erratically

·         Ask your child directly if he/she is having suicidal thoughts

·         Listen and allow your child to speak freely of their feelings without interruption or judgment

·         Reassure your child of your unconditional love and support

·         If your child has admitted to having suicidal thoughts – do not leave them alone

·         Seek professional help immediately

·         Reassure your child that these feelings of pain and suffering will not last forever

·         Notify your child’s school administrator of the problem and request any help that they can offer

Using Your Child’s School as a Resource

Your child’s school can serve as one of the most useful resources in suicide prevention, being that your child spends the majority of his or her time there. Here are some resources that your child’s school can provide –

·         Access to tests that can measure your child’s risk-level for suicide

·         Parent notification of any suspicious behaviors that are believed to be warnings signs of suicidal behavior

·         Provide referrals for outside professional help that your child may need if he or she is found to be at risk of suicide

·         Provide in-school counseling to any child who is suffering from depression, low self-esteem, or any other problems that commonly lead to suicide

The mission of the Walton County Prevention Coalition is to help to prevent substance abuse in our youth by developing an anti-drug coalition. Suicide prevention is a topic that does not receive an adequate amount of attention, and substance abuse is one of the most common stepping stones to suicidal behavior in our youth. The Walton County Prevention Coalition urges parents to stay educated on recognizing the signs of suicidal behavior in teenagers.



What Works? Components of a Successful Substance Abuse Prevention Program

Substance abuse prevention is imperative to the success of our younger generations. Preventing drug use in our youth today makes for brighter futures tomorrow. Kids who begin using drugs and alcohol during their adolescent years are more likely to drop out of high school and struggle with substance abuse addiction in the future. Substance abuse prevention programs have been proven to be successful in lowering the statistics of drug and alcohol use in our youth. Here are some key components that make up a successful substance abuse prevention program.

8 Components of a Successful Substance Abuse Prevention Program

1.       Speak Directly to the Youth

A successful substance abuse prevention program must provide information that will effectively influence its target audience – the youth. Studies have shown that children and adolescents are most influenced by the present. Information that will likely have the greatest impact on them would be –

·         The negative consequences that drug and alcohol use will have on their life right now

·         For example, smoking causes bad breath and yellowing teeth vs. smoking can cause lung cancer later in life

2.       Teach Kids How to Resist Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is one of the biggest hurdles of a child’s adolescent years. There are so many pressures coming from all angles during the middle school and high school years – it is crucial for kids to be prepared for handling themselves in these difficult situations, so peer pressure is a very important component to a successful substance abuse prevention program.

3.       Focus on the Big Picture of Adolescent Life

There are so many outside factors that can contribute to teenagers using drugs and alcohol, so in order for a substance abuse prevention program to be effective, you have to also include a broader-base of skills training and health education, such as –

·         Stress management

·         Communication skills

·         Maintaining healthy self-esteem and self-confidence

·         Importance of exercise and maintaining your health

·         Importance of healthy relationships between family, friends and significant others

4.       Reverse the Normality of Drug Use in our Society

It is important to come up with methods that teach our youth that drug use is NOT normal. A good way to do this is to show examples of what happens to people who ‘normally’ abuse drugs and alcohol –

·         Mug shots

·         Before and after shots of people addicted to drugs

·         News articles of drug and alcohol related deaths

5.       Research and Address Community Specific Issues

What are the most common substance abuse issues in your community? It is important to educate our youth about the pressures that are most common in their community. These are the pressures that they are most likely to be faced with.

6.       Promote Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

Substance abuse prevention truly does start in a child’s home. The relationship that a teenager has with their parents can directly influence their likelihood of becoming involved with alcohol and drugs. Some key factors of a healthy parent-child relationship can include –

·         Good, open communication about the issues surrounding substance abuse

·         The ability for parents to trust their teenagers to make smart decisions

·         The ability for teenagers to come to their parents for help in difficult situations

7.       Incorporate Parent Education into the Program

It is just as important to educate parents about substance abuse prevention as it is to educate our youth. Parents need the proper information and resources to help their teens make smart, healthy decisions regarding alcohol, tobacco and drug use.

The Walton County Prevention Coalition is a substance abuse prevention coalition that prides itself on educating the members of our community about the dangers of alcohol, tobacco and drug use in our youth. The first step to prevention is education, and the WCPC is dedicated to providing helpful information and resources to the parents and children of our community. 



5 Tips on Talking to Your Kids about Underage Drinking

With so many other drugs and pressures swarming around our youth, parents often make the mistake of neglecting the topic of underage drinking when talking to their kids – and boy is it a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Kids are now known to start experimenting with alcohol before even reaching their teenage years, so it is important to be proactive in talking to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking and the long-term effects that alcohol can have on our youth.

Start Early
When it comes to talking to your kids about underage drinking, it is important to beat the peer pressure to the punch.

»     The pressures of experimenting with alcohol and other drugs is happening at a much younger age nowadays. Approximately 10% of kids admit to using alcohol by the age of 12, and that number doubles by the age of 13.Kids these days, right?

»     Though teenagers don’t always act like it, they do look to their parents and other adults for guidance, and though it may not seem like it at times, when you talk, they listen.

»     Start talking to your kids about the dangers of underage drinking at young age so that they will be prepared for the inevitable pressures that they will encounter.

Saying Nothing Can Be Saying A Lot

Conversations with your teenager about topics such as underage drinking can surely be challenging, but that is no excuse to put it off. Saying nothing to your child about underage drinking can prove to be far more dangerous than saying the wrong thing.

»     Some parents mistakenly believe that their child isn’t susceptible to giving in to the pressures of underage drinking – wrong!

»     Parents often think that they know their child, they know who their child is hanging out with, or they think that their child tells them everything, therefore they know that their child isn’t experimenting with alcohol, so why bring it up? No one’s child is above being subjected to the peer pressures of underage drinking – prepare your child for the worst, even if their behavior is the best.

»     By saying nothing, you can be saying “drinking isn’t as big of a deal as other drugs that I’ve warned you about.” This is a dangerous message.

Use the Organic Approach

Speaking of how difficult these conversations with our kids can be – what’s the best way to bring it up? When possible, it can be best to bring these topics up in a casual environment such as during dinner or on a road trip.

»     When you let the conversation happen in an organic way, the relaxed environment will allow your child to feel more comfortable opening up.

»     For example, you could bring up something that happened in the news involving underage drinking, and then say, “That’s scary. Are there any kids at your school getting involved with alcohol already?”

Avoid the Scare Tactic

It can be difficult to keep a good balance between creating an open and casual environment for your child to open up, setting clear boundaries and expectations for them, and showing them who is boss. The one thing that you don’t want to do is try and scare your child into avoiding alcohol.

»     This tactic can cause your child to rebel against you as well as scare them away from coming to you for help in dangerous situations involving alcohol. 

»     Teenagers make mistakes and they can get themselves into some dangerous situations – it is important for your child to know that they can come to you for help and talk to you about what they are experiencing. Don’t scare them away.

»     Set limitations and expectations for your child in regards to underage drinking, but let them know you are there to support them when bad situations arise.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

If you are going to drink openly in front of your kids, do it responsibly. Your children will learn more from your own actions than from what you say to them. Be a good role model and don’t let them learn bad drinking habits in their own home.

The mission of the Walton County Prevention Coalition is to help to prevent substance abuse in our youth by developing an anti-drug coalition. Underage drinking is just one of the many pressures facing our youth and it isn’t one to be taken lightly. Start talking to your kids today about the dangers of underage drinking and the negative effects that alcohol abuse can have on their future.







Recognizing the Warning Signs: How to Know If Your Kid is Using Drugs or Alcohol

It’s the moment that all parents dread when their children reach their adolescent years – the moment that they start to wonder, “Is my child using drugs or alcohol?” Maybe you are noticing signs of a sudden change of attitude or a decline in your child’s grades at school – whatever the reason, substance abuse is a common cause of worry among parents of adolescents. It is important to know the warning signs and to create an open dialogue with your children when you notice strange behavior.

Warning Signs of Teenage Substance Abuse

1.       Sudden Change in Behavior or Attitude

I know what you are thinking – They are teenagers. Of course they have sudden changes in attitude. Fair enough, but this is one of those warning signs that can be brushed off by parents for that very reason. Pay close attention to your child’s behavior and talk to them when you notice these changes. Maybe it’s just a typical teenage mood swing, but there could easily be a larger issue at hand.

2.       Decline in School Performance

Did your child go from being an honor roll student to barely skating by in their classes? This is a sign that your teenager is struggling with something – maybe it is substance abuse, or maybe it is another issue such as depression. Pay attention and always let your child know that you are there for support.

·         Another thing to pay attention to is your child’s attendance in school. Are there school absences that you were unaware of? This is a definite sign of troubled behavior.

3.       Withdrawal

If your child becomes withdrawn from interaction with you while at home and starts to react in a negative manner to your attempts at interaction, this could be a warning sign of substance abuse, depression, or a dangerous combination of both.

·         When teenagers become involved with alcohol or drugs, it can cause them to withdraw from their parents out of fear that they will know what they are up to.

·         Withdrawal can also be a result of substance abuse induced depression or the ‘I don’t care’ mindset that the use of drugs and alcohol in teenagers can cause.

4.       New Friends and/or Decreased Interaction with Usual Friends

Of course, there is nothing wrong with your teenager making new friends and it is totally normal for some friendships to fade out. However, if you notice that your teenager’s usual friends aren’t coming around anymore and you’ve yet to meet any of your child’s new friends, you may want to dig a little bit deeper into seeing who your child is spending their time with. Your child’s circle of friends is a huge influence to their adolescent years.

5.       Severe Weight Loss or Weight Gain

There are certain drugs that can cause rapid weight loss and certain drugs that can cause weight gain due to the effects that these drugs have on your appetite. Any dramatic fluctuation in your teenager’s weight should not be taken lightly. However, all drugs effect people differently so just because your teenager isn’t experiencing drastic fluctuations in their weight, doesn’t mean they aren’t using.

6.       Missing Items around the House

No parent ever wants to suspect their child of stealing, but if you are noticing any of the above warning signs and things are starting to come up missing around the house, your child could be in serious trouble. Items that may come up missing could include –

·         Money from your purse or wallet

·         Prescription medications

·         Expensive items such as jewelry

7.       Strange Behavior When They Come Home at Night

When your teenager comes in from a night out with their friends, do you notice any of these behaviors?

·         Hat pulled down to cover their eyes; lack of eye contact

·         Excessive use of chewing gum or cologne/perfume

·         Avoiding interaction/going straight to their room and shutting the door

These could all be warning signs that your teenager may be abusing drugs or alcohol. Talk to your kids on a regular basis about the dangers of substance abuse and keep them educated about all of the harmful effects.

The Walton County Prevention Coalition is dedicated to educating parents and adolescents about the importance of preventing substance abuse in our youth. Knowing the warning signs and paying close attention to the behavior of teenagers is one of the most important factors in preventing the use of drugs and alcohol in teens. What are you doing to educate your children?