How can you tell whether your child is using illegal drugs? One in four twelfth graders and one in eight eighth graders have reported using an illegal drug in the past month.
"As an emergency physician, one of the most painful experiences I've had is telling a parent that her child has just died from a drug overdose," said Dr. Larry Alexander of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "This is happening all too often in America today. The use of illicit drugs is spreading from high schools, to junior high even to grade schools and drug users are coming from all walks of life. We must educate young people about about the dangers of drug use and employ every means possible to prevent its use." Here are some symptoms to watch for to help you know whether your child is using drugs:
- Unexplained deterioration in school performance;
- Sudden resistance to authority, defiance;
- Attitude changes;
- Behavior problems;
- High-risk behavior, such as stealing or sexual promiscuity;
- Extreme mood swings (e.g., depression, anger);
- Changes in relationships or eating habits;
- Slurred speech;
- Appearing spaced out; and
- Presence of drug paraphernalia (cigarette papers, pipes, spoons).
Talking about drugs can be uncomfortable for parents. But if you don't talk to them, someone else will.
"Parents are the first defense in preventing drug use," said Dr. Alexander. "So educate yourself so you can give accurate information and explain the negative consequences of specific drugs. And remember to show by example that drugs are not a healthy choice."
In 1997, past month drug use increased to 26 percent among 12th graders, up from 14 percent in 1992. According to ACEP, few young people have a clear understanding of the risks associated with drug use, and even fewer view drug use as a negative behavior. In addition, drugs are readily available to anyone who wants to buy them, and the purity of drugs like cocaine and heroin is at it highest level historically, making their use more feasible and more affordable thean ever before as well as more dangerous.
For more information about illegal drug use and how you can talk to your child, visit the web site of the Office of National Drug Control Policy at www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov