A shocking 63,632 lives - that's how many lives drug overdoses claimed in 2016.
That's a 20% increase from the previous year. Also, according to experts, the most number of cases had something to do with the use of synthetic opioids, including fentanyl.
What many people aren't aware of is that drug abuse is as deadly to teenagers too. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, teen drug overdose death rate went up by 19.%.
All these raise the importance of how parents should know how to spot a teenager on drugs. Before it's too late.
But, what exactly can you as a loving mom or dad do?
Don't worry. That's what we're here to share with you today.
Keep reading so that you'll know more about drugs and teens. (And what you can do to bring them back on the right track.)
When the Exposure Starts
Determining teen drug abuse starts at having an idea on when this age group usually begin using illicit substances. As such, it's best you learn more about teenagers drug abuse statistics. Here are a few for when teens receive exposure or when they start using:
For marijuana use, the average is as early as the age of 14. For alcohol, it's a couple of years before, with the average pre-adolescents having tried it before they hit 12.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse for Teens (NIDA), marijuana is the most common amongst all illegal drugs teens use. The organization said that over 25% of 10th graders have already tried it a year before.
How many teens do drugs then?
The exact number remains a mystery, but here's what NIDA reported:
40% of surveyed 12th graders have tried a drug within the past year
For 10th graders, it's 30%
At least 13% of 8th graders have already tried one drug
This said, you can already see that exposure - and use - starts in children as early as in their pre-teens.
But they can be exposed earlier than that, depending on factors such as if anyone else in the family use drugs. It's your responsibility as a mother or father to limit their exposure. But, at the same time, you also want to educate them as early as possible on what drugs can really do to the brain and body.
Is Your Teenager on Drugs?
Now comes the hard part - figuring out if your child does drugs. But what's harder is accepting the possibility.
The hardest part? Stopping yourself from being in denial.
Denial is as big a contributor to drug use which turns to abuse. We all know how many substance abuse cases ended in the worst case possible - overdose and deaths.
When you're in denial that your teenager may be doing drugs, your child will have more time and space to continue doing so. They may even consider this as neglect on your part, which may give them even more reason to not stop using. They may feel that you don't care what they do.
In other words, denial may be the only thing that can keep you from saving the life of your child.
So, before it's too late, do the following to spot signs of drug use:
Look Them Straight in the Eyes
As soon as your teen gets home from a day (or night) out with friends, check his/her eyes. Marijuana use leads to the reddening of the eyes. This, combined with heavy-lidded eyes and constricted pupils, can tell you that your kid smoked marijuana.
This is also a good time to check for signs of drinking. In addition to dilated pupils, you'll smell alcohol right away. If you can't, then red, flushed cheeks and problems focusing are other signals to look out for.
Sudden Mood Changes and/or Erratic Behavior
How your child behaves, especially after having gone out with friends, can also tell you a lot about potential drug and alcohol use. In many cases, their behavior is a surprising change from how they usually act.
Hysterical laughter and uncontrolled volume of voice can indicate drunkenness and being high. They may also be weirdly clumsy that they bump into objects, like furniture. Their confusion can even cause them to knock things over and trip.
Note, however, that some teens can take on the exact opposite behavior. When on drugs, they may withdraw from family and friends. They may also show unusual tiredness or fatigue.
The car they use can also hold clues to their possible drug use. Reckless driving is very common in drunk or high teens (hence the typical higher car insurance rates).
As such, it's a good time to check for new dents or signs of minor car crashes. You should also inspect the car's interiors for smells of smoke and alcohol. Of course, if you see drug paraphernalia (think bongs and pipes), then that's a surefire sign your teenager is using.
Evasiveness and Withdrawal
As your child gets older, it's only normal for him/her to change friends. However, when this becomes complete abandonment, it's possible that drug use is the more sinister cause.
If your child has completely left social activities out of his/her usual routine, be concerned. While everyone will go through change of interests, if this happens abruptly, it may be a sign that something more serious is going on. Something as menacing as drug use.
Evasiveness is also a common behavior in children who do drugs. If your kid always shrugs off your questions about where they went and what they did, it could mean they're hiding something. While this doesn't always mean illegal substances, in many cases, it does.
When It's Time for Intervention
If you notice any or many of these symptoms, don't delay intervention. Especially if your inspections of their car and room has turned up proof, like drug paraphernalia. The sooner you talk to your teenager on drugs, the greater his/her chances for recovery.
Intervention works best when carried out earlier. Don't wait for the use to turn to abuse and ultimately end in overdose. Call us now for help on the next steps you should take as a parent or a loved one of a teenager using drugs.