Facts on Drug Addiction Revealed

Confused? Conflicted? Overwhelmed? When it comes to drugs, alcohol and addiction, the facts can be perplexing for parents and teens.

The issues are tough, but the quest for answers begins with a basic step:

“Just ask. We want members of the community — employers, parents and teachers — to call us and ask questions,” says David Vittoria, assistant vice president of the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at South Miami Hospital. “And if you want to know what’s going on with your children, ask them. Unfortunately, parents are afraid to ask.”

Now is a good time to get your questions ready. National Drug Facts Week — a teen health program sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) — runs now through Feb. 2. The campaign provides tools and opportunities to address myths and facts about substance abuse. Other features include live community events, videos, an online tool kit and a Twitter chat featuring the hashtag: #drugfacts.

With National Drug Facts Week getting underway, here are a few other things you should know:

How prevalent is substance abuse as it relates to teens?

About 20 percent of teens said they have taken unauthorized doses of someone else’s prescription medicine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Roughly 5 percent of teens admit to abusing over-the-counter cough medicines for recreational purposes, the CDC reports.

One-third of 12 graders reported using an illicit drug during the last year, and at least 20 percent said they smoked marijuana within the last month, according to NIDA.

(Meanwhile, the topic of medical marijuana has taken center stage due to a recent Florida Supreme Court ruling that paves the way for a November ballot measure legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Is marijuana addictive?

Studies are ongoing about the short- and long-term effects of marijuana on the brain, Mr. Vittoria says. But there is evidence that marijuana can be addictive for some teens and can be harmful for the developing teen brain, according to NIDA.

What can parents do?

In a recent blog post for Informed,  Mr. Vittoria offered this advice:

Safeguard your medicine cabinet: Lock Your Meds! Take steps to protect your children by safeguarding all the medicines you have in your home. Know what you have and how much, so you will know if anything is missing. Safely discard medicines you no longer need.

Speak up! Talk to your kids about prescription and OTC cough medicine misuse. Teens listen, even if they act like they don’t. In fact, teens who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are half as likely to use drug.

Share:  Exchange information at school meetings, community events and other parent gatherings. Circulate articles at your child’s school or write an editorial for the school newspaper. Blog and tweet about medicine safety. Post information on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

How can parents address key questions and issues?

  • Move past clichés: Blinded by a “not-my-child” mindset, some parents mistakenly believe that the presence of good grades automatically exempts a child from substance abuse, Mr. Vittoria says.
  • Monitor: Talk to the parents who are hosting the parties your teens attend. Drive by a party location, and check out the fringe activity on the street and driveway. Be aware of your child’s social media activities.
  • Understand pressures: “Parents are competing for their children’s attention more than ever,” Mr. Vittoria says.  Academic pressure, smart phones, electronic games and social networks can monopolize your teen’s time and attention. Set limits and boundaries to minimize distractions.

If the atmosphere in your home is one of complete mistrust and silence, ask yourself what changes are needed to establish an honest exchange of concerns.

“You can begin by admitting how uncomfortable you feel talking about drugs and substance abuse,” Mr. Vittoria says. “National Drug Facts Week is a good launch pad for those awkward discussions.”

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