Are you a parent who is concerned about your teen using drugs? Are you unsure on how you can help prevent your teen from using drugs? To help understand how teens first become exposed to drugs and what you as a parent can do to raise a drug free teen, I have interviewed therapist Alison Gamez.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I am a licensed professional counselor with ten years experience in the behavioral health field. I used to work primarily with families, but the demand was greater in court ordered counseling, and I gradually grew to love substance abuse and domestic violence counseling because of the powerful changes they can create in families, and therefore the community as a whole. Currently I work for an agency in Glendale Monday thru Thursday and run my own agency after the agency workday and on Friday and Saturday in both Surprise and Gila Bend. Also, I am the mom of a 17-year-old son.”
How do teens first become exposed to drugs?
“Teens first become exposed to drugs primarily through one of two ways. Sometimes a family member has an addiction or alcoholism problem, and that makes it part of the family history, “we are a family who does drugs.” These teens think drug use is normal and may not know what a lifestyle without drugs look like.”
“The second primary way teens use drugs is with friends who may get the drugs from an older sibling, steal them from parents (ie. “pharm parties”, or cigarettes and alcohol), or from drug pushers on the streets.”
What type of impact can drugs have on a teen’s overall life?
“Drugs can have a wide spectrum of impact on teens. Some of that depends on what drugs and how physically addictive they are. It may also depend on how the teen felt after his first use. In the case of experimentation with non-physically addictive drugs, there may be little effect. For example, a teen smokes a joint (or marijuana) at a party and gets high. They now know what it’s like to get high, so they’re not curious anymore. Maybe in the future they smoke more weeds at parties if it’s handed to them, maybe not; but that’s where it ends.”
“They could become psychologically addicted, like with cocaine or even marijuana, where the teen feels relaxed, and becomes dependent on the drug to feel relaxed, instead of finding natural ways to relax that don’t involve putting anything into the body. That can make people feel like “it’s okay to be bored” as said on South Park, which can take away the human ambition for a better life such as going to college, work, seeking out good friends, playing sports or going to church. The life becomes delayed, less than what it would be without the drugs.”
“Then there are physically addictive drugs, which can take away morals, because to keep the physical pain away that comes with not having more drugs, the teen will steal or have sex with someone they wouldn’t otherwise for drugs or money. All their energy and time is spent in acquiring the drugs and they become a drugged out shell of who they really are. And these drugs can cause overdose and death. Unfortunately, right now in my practice I see many teens smoking heroin, using meth, and taking prescription drugs, especially Xanax, which all lead to this.”
What can a parent do to raise a drug free teen?
“A parent can be honest with a teen about the different drugs and their effects. If a parent finds, for example, smoking weed or drinking a beer at a party completely unacceptable, they need to explain why- how it impacts family values. If parents smoked weed or drank as a teen themselves, they need to explain why they don’t want their teen to do the same, or why it’s okay, occasionally, but danger signs to watch out for. And why all illegal drugs are not alike!!! Especially with how dangerous prescription drugs can be today! If the parents don’t know the dangers of painkillers and their physical effects on someone using them just for experimentation, they should find out, because unfortunately that’s a popular pastime right now, and has serious consequences.”
“Above all, parents need to be realistic, and not judgmental. Studies done show MADD is the most effective campaign for parents and teens because it is realistic. They realize that teens will experiment with alcohol, and when they do, they need to call for a ride home and NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. Then, the next day, talk about it. Is it okay? How often will these happen? Why is it a bad thing? And how is it normal for teens to experiment with alcohol? And how often? Of course we as parents wish our kids would never experiment with alcohol, and wind up dead or at least hospitalized with alcohol intoxication. But above all, be realistic, and develop together consequences for drinking. Realistic consequences to help keep the door to honesty open, and so that the teen will call for help instead of drinking, using other forms of drugs and driving after!!! Parents who love their teen should emphasize that it is this love that makes us not want them to have the same problems we may have. We want our kids to be as successful and live a healthy life.”
What should a parent do if he or she ever suspects that their teen is using drugs?
“If a parent suspect their teen is using, first they need to determine what drug, and how often. If it is heroin, meth, crack, prescription drugs without a prescription, or pcp, and it is more than once, the teen will immediately need intense therapy, maybe even inpatient care.”
“With those drugs, parents may want to involve the police or another outside guide to ensure boundaries are set and met. In the case of other drugs (including alcohol), the parent needs to talk realistically to their kids, and use the tools I outlined above. If there is no change, I suggest going to a parenting support group or getting some personal support on setting boundaries and making consequences.”
Thank you Alison for doing the interview on how a parent can raise a drug free teen. For more information on Alison Gamez or her work you can check out her website on http://www.aagserenityservices.com/.
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