Whether it’s Randy Travis’ mug shots splashed across tabloids, news of Amanda Bynes hit-and-run after an earlier arrest for a DUI or community service handed to Miley Cyrus for drunk driving, there is a celebrity battle with substance abuse seemingly everyday.
Unfortunately teenagers look up to many of them and the impression teens often take away is drinking and drugging have minor repercussions. In many cases, the same celebrities serve little or no jail time, continue with their careers, are rewarded for getting “clean,” and continue to make millions of dollars.
There is no question that celebrities glamorize drug and alcohol abuse, though rarely if ever their intention. Now and again, however, the intent is clear, as was the case of a mega pop star allegedly hailing the wonders of ecstasy at a recent concert, a dance drug that is both dangerous and deadly.
Civilians face much harsher and more costly consequences, such as actual jail time, criminal records that could hurt their future plans, physical problems, not to mention potential addiction and even death.
Many celebrities are involved in various charitable organizations to help teens in need, including To Write On Her Arms, dedicated to giving hope to young people dealing with addiction and depression. Miley Cyrus is a big supporter.
With teenagers heading back to school, it’s an opportune time for parents to begin formally educating themselves on substance abuse. Drinking, smoking pot and taking prescription medicine is on the rise and some of the statistics are staggering. Approximately 51% of all 8th graders have experienced drinking leading up to 80% by the 12th grade.
Marijuana use alone has increased 80% among teenagers since 2008.
In terms of substance abuse, alcohol leads the way, followed by marijuana, then prescription drugs (ranging from Adderall to Vicodin), ecstasy, inhalants and heroin, or what is referred to as “hard” drugs. Hard drugs include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, opiates, and barbiturates.
Parents often feel overwhelmed by the statistics and sense they lack the tools to help their teen.
But there is plenty parents can and must do. Because drug education programs have been drastically cut due to budgetary pressures, families and extended family need to step up to the plate.
Prevention starts at home.
Communication: Know your kids. It will prove helpful when guiding them toward more healthy activities in their lives. Talk to your children about their goals, be open, and listen. Start talking about alcohol and drugs as early as the 4th grade. Know the latest “flavor of the month drug” sounding like an expert but without being preachy.
To say “pot leads to heroin” will not be very effective, but to show them scientific evidence that THC rearranges brain cells will.
This is an ongoing conversation with teenagers; how drugs and alcohol affect the body, how a conviction can lead to prison, how travesties such as addiction, sickness, physical harm and death inevitably comes with the territory.
Involvement: It’s been proven that when caring parents are involved in their children’s lives, kids are less likely to get involved with substance abuse. Spend time with them, go to events together as a family; let them know you are always available to help manage any problems they may be facing.
Rules and consistency: Research shows that kids with no rules or overly harsh rules are more likely to try alcohol and drugs. Discuss rules, expectations and consequences in advance. This teaches them to take responsibility for their actions. Follow this up by giving praise when they meet rules and goals set forth.
Positive role model: Children imitate adults. Demonstrate ways to problem-solve, have fun and manage stress without the need for alcohol or drugs.
Choosing friends: Help them choose their friends wisely. If they have a friend who exhibits risky behavior, many times a child doesn’t feel comfortable in the relationship but also doesn’t know how to end it. You can be their guide. Get to know your child’s friends and their families. Help them find friends outside of school such as activities they enjoy, sports programs, or volunteer organizations. Boredom is a huge component that leads toward substance abuse.
Ground zero: Many schools have a ground zero policy that states if a child is caught with alcohol or drugs on campus they are permanently expelled. You can have a similar policy at home. (Obviously not the expelling aspect.) Substance abuse is simply not okay. It’s illegal and not allowed. Whatever rules you set in place regarding this topic, stick to it. Some parents have their kids sign an agreement and adhere to certain policies, such as never getting into a car with a drunk driver. Teens are under a lot of peer pressure at school and a very effective technique is to have your teen tell his or her friends they are drug tested every week. This takes the onerous off your child.
All of these efforts combined will make for a safer, happier and hopefully alcohol and drug- free home.
If you suspect your child is drinking or using, this is a helpful guidebook on actions to take.
If you have a teen caught in the throws of addiction, Alanon and Alateen are great organizations where you will find solid support. Staying involved with other parents will empower you. Feeling hopeless and possibly helpless is detrimental to both the parents and child.
Alanon also offers an online source of support as does empowering parents.
When it comes to finding help and/or treatment, this is a useful website.
Meanwhile, have a wonderful back-to-school year and keep you children close.