With summer break on the horizon, children are spending more time with their friends and often more time unsupervised. The potential exposure to addictive substances during this time of year means it’s important for parents to be vigilant about warning signs of addiction in your children.
As substance abuse begin to take over your child’s life, it typically leads to a change in their usual group of friends. New friends, ones that support your child’s new lifestyle, will become more present, while old friends, that perhaps refuse to engage in such activities, may begin to disappear.
Substance abuse in younger adults usually results in changes to social behavior and mood, and can lead to problems with school work, increases in risky behavior and mood swings. Changes in social interactions are very noticeable if one knows to look for them. If your extroverted child suddenly keeps to himself more or avoids eye contact it should be a concern. If he or she is sullen, irritable or depressed, it could also be a warning sign.
If you do a double take when you notice your child has become slovenly, chances are something is going on. If your child has become careless about his or her clothing, has an unkempt appearance and has a perennially runny nose, you should think about having a conversation with your child about drug abuse.
If you find your child no longer enjoys his or her usual activities, it may be that he or she has become pre-occupied with obtaining and using drugs or alcohol, an all-consuming task. One sign you can look for is if hobbies they previously enjoyed – soccer, ice skating, dance, gymnastics, or martial arts – seem unimportant now. Instead of receiving mental and emotional stimulation from positive activities, they could be turning to drugs and alcohol to fill the void.
As the hand that feeds, parents tend to notice this effect of substance abuse quickly. Depending on the substance, your child can experience an array of new food habits, including binge eating, also known as the ‘munchies’, or a decrease in appetite. This swing in eating habits can have a negative effect on your child’s health and nutrition and should be addressed.
If you suspect that your child is using drugs or alcohol, the most important thing to do is address the problem quickly. Substance abuse can be much more damaging for teenagers and young adults, because the human brain is still developing during that age. That being said, with younger substance users, if caught soon enough, the addiction usually has not progressed to the point seen in most adults. A quick clinical intervention, usually in the form of therapy and counseling, is often enough to break the pattern.
Many of the families that come to our psychiatry center in Delray Beach are dealing with family members who have had substance use disorders since adolescence and are now adults. For adults struggling with addictions to opioids, especially those with multiple relapse episodes, we often prescribe medication-assisted treatment, which is combination of medications like Suboxone along with psychotherapy and counseling. This course of treatment is not recommended for young adults, however, because they typically do not have the degree of prolonged physical drug dependency seen in many adults. A treatment plan involving either counseling or intensive outpatient treatment is more often recommended.
If you have a son or daughter that you believe is struggling with alcohol or drug abuse, contact us today to schedule a consultation.