Your Teen

Teen Marijuana Use Could Have Lasting Effects on Mood, Anxiety

Marijuana use among teens could trigger neurological changes in the developing brain that lead to increased anxiety and stress levels that could persist into adulthood, new animal research suggests.  

Although the finding stems solely from work conducted with adolescent and adult lab rats, the work suggests that certain troublesome changes in levels of the key brain chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine may linger long after marijuana use ceases. "Here, the goal was simply to understand the neurological mechanism that could be underlying the specific phenomenon of depression and anxiety observed in previous studies among adolescents chronically exposed to cannabis," explained study author Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, a psychiatric researcher at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal. "And what we found with the animals we worked with is that when those that were exposed to cannabis as adolescents became adults they had low serotonin activity, which is related to depressive behavior, and high norepinephrine levels, which is related to an increase in anxiety and stress," Gobbi continued. "This means," she cautioned, "that cannabis exposure when young seems to cause changes in the adult brain. And these changes could perhaps be irreversible, even if you stop consuming cannabis." The study appears in Neurobiology of Disease. The authors say that the main ingredient in marijuana, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has previously been identified as having an impact on receptors in the brain that regulate cognition and emotion. In addition, they point out that the adolescent brain is perhaps particularly sensitive to both drug use and related stress, given that this is the pre-adult period during which the brain and its neurochemical composition undergoes extensive reshaping and reorganizing. "We were a little bit surprised by our findings because we didn't expect to see such a strong effect on the adult brain from adolescent usage. It was a very significant effect," said Gobbi. "So, in general, I think that what people should take away from this work," she advised, "is that just because it's a plant it doesn't mean that marijuana is harmless. It's a pharmacologically active drug, and it must be used with awareness."

Your Teen

Study: No Health Risks for Kids From Mobile Phones

A new study conducted by the German government shows that radiation from mobile phones has no short-term health impact on children and teenagers. The study, which measured radiation levels in over 3,000 children aged eight to 17 over a 24-hour period, showed there was no direct link between exposure to radiation and health complaints such as headaches and dizziness.

However, the study did say that radiation may still result in longer-term health risks for children as their nervous and immune systems are not fully developed. As a precautionary measure, researchers urged caution in the use of wireless technology, especially for children.

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Your Teen

Is Your Teen’s Aching Knee More Than “Growing Pains”?

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Many kids experience what is commonly referred to as “growing pains” as they get older.  Children may experience aches and pains as young as 3 to 4 years old, then again around 8 to 12 years of age.

When a teen’s legs and knees hurt, he or she may also be told that they are probably suffering from growing pains and that they will grow out of it. 

There are times when a youngster or teen has simply overdone it by running and / or jumping too much. Like anyone else, if they haven’t used those muscles enough – they’ll be sore.

However, consistent knee pain is something else.

A Danish study says that if a teen’s knee pain persists, it could become a chronic condition affecting their quality of life.

"We can see from the study that one in three young people between the ages of 12 and 19 experience problems with pain in their knees," said Michael Skovdal Rathleff, a physiotherapist from Aarhus University. "Seven percent of the adolescents experience daily knee pain in the front of the knee. More than half still have problems after two years, so it is not something they necessarily grow out of."

The study involving 3,000 teens revealed knee pain is a more significant problem than previously thought.

"If knee pain is not treated there is a high risk of the pain becoming chronic. And this clearly has a big consequence for the individual's everyday life and opportunities," Rathleff noted in a university news release. "Our findings show that these adolescents have as much pain symptoms and reduced quality of life as adolescents on a waiting list for a cruciate knee ligament reconstruction, or as a 75-year-old six months after receiving a new knee."

Other studies have shown that about 25 percent of patients who've undergone a knee replacement because of osteoarthritis of the kneecap also had knee pain since they were teenagers. Osteoarthritis of the kneecap, the researchers concluded, may sometimes begin early in life. They added, however, that earlier treatment and proper training could help.

According to a study published in BMC Pediatrics, pain resolves in about half of the young people with knee pain when they get the right physical therapy. Unfortunately, many kids may not get the therapy they need soon enough.

"It is worrying that the pain only disappears in the case of half of the young people who actually do the training," said Rathleff. "The indications are that we should start the treatment somewhat earlier where it is easier to cure the pain."

Do all teens with a bad knee need physical therapy? Not necessarily, it all depends on the child's circumstances, Rathleff noted.

If your child has knee pain that doesn’t seem to go away or consistently comes and goes, you might want to talk with your family doctor or pediatrician about physical therapy and see if he or she recommends it. The benefits could be life changing for your active teen. 

Source: Mary Elizabeth Dallas, http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/adolescents-and-teen-health-news-719/teen-growing-pains-may-persist-for-years-690210.html

Your Teen

Sunburn Warnings for Kids and Teens

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It is well known that sun exposure raises the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) occur most frequently — more than 1 million cases are diagnosed yearly. Most develop in older adults, but the incidence is rising in younger people. These cancers are highly curable if found early and removed; nonetheless, about 2,000 people die of these tumors each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).Now more than ever, we encourage children to engage in outdoor physical activity. Being outside without adequate sun protection, however, often leads to sunburn and increases the risk of developing skin cancer.

In the March issue of Pediatrics, an AAP technical report and policy statement updates information about the hazards of solar ultraviolet radiation (UVR) and highlight the dangers of tanning salons. Skin cancer rates rising It is well known that sun exposure raises the risk of developing skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and Squamous-cell carcinoma (SCC) occur most frequently — more than 1 million cases are diagnosed yearly. Most develop in older adults, but the incidence is rising in younger people. These cancers are highly curable if found early and removed; nonetheless, about 2,000 people die of these tumors each year, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, occurs mostly in older adults but also is a common cancer in young adults. New diagnoses of melanoma are increasing rapidly, and many skin cancer experts say that melanoma incidence has reached epidemic proportions. The lifetime risk of developing melanoma is about 2% (1 in 50) for white people, 0.5% (1 in 200) for Hispanics and 0.1% (1 in 1,000) for blacks. People at highest risk have light skin and eyes and sunburn easily. Melanoma accounts for only 5% of skin cancer cases but causes more than three-quarters of skin cancer deaths. Although nearly always curable if detected early, metastases melanoma has a grave prognosis. ACS estimated that there were 68,130 new cases and about 8,700 people died of melanoma in 2010. What increases risk? Young people who experience one or more severe, blistering sunburns have a higher risk of developing melanoma later on. Intense intermit- tent sun exposure also raises the risk of developing BCC. In contrast, developing SCC is related to experiencing lower levels of UVR exposure over longer time periods. Each day, more than 1 million people visit one of 50,000 U.S. tanning salons. Teen girls are frequent visitors. Powerful tanning lamps emit high levels of UVR, primarily ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation, but also some ultraviolet B (UVB). According to recent evidence, a tanning response means that DNA damage has occurred in skin. The International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that UVR from artificial sources is a human carcinogen. Many experts believe that dramatic increases in skin cancer, including in young people, may be due in part to increasing use of tanning salons. There is no evidence to suggest a protective effect of salon tanning (the “pre-vacation tan”) against the damaging effects of subsequent sun expo- sure. Advice for families Limiting exposure to UVR can prevent many cases of skin cancer. A program of sun protection is recommended. Children and families should avoid sunburn and sun tanning, wear protective clothing and hats with brims, and apply sunscreen. When feasible, plan outdoor activities to limit exposure to peak-intensity midday sun (10a.m.- 4 p.m.) Sunglasses should be worn when in the sun. Protection comes from a chemical coating applied to the glass; lens color has nothing to do with UV protection. Parents and teens should look for a label stating that sunglasses block at least 98% of UVA and UVB rays. Correctly using sunscreen can prevent sunburn and is believed to protect against SCC. Using sun- screen has not, however, been shown to prevent melanoma or BCC. In addition, concerns have been raised about systemic absorption of sunscreen. Oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient, was found in 97% of 2,500 urine samples analyzed as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 2003- ’04. Results from studies in animals exposed to certain sunscreen ingredients have shown alterations in reproductive and other organs. Sunscreen ingredients have been detected in breast milk. Although toxicity in infants or young children resulting from sunscreen absorption has not been reported, skin permeability to topically applied products is of concern in the very young, especially in preterm infants. Absorptive and other properties of children’s skin may differ from those of adult skin until children are at least 2 years old. Despite these new concerns, using sunscreen is recommended as part of overall sun protection by the Academy and many other organizations. Overexposure to the sun definitely raises skin cancer risk, and there is no benefit to sunburns or to skin aging. Sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher should be used when a person might sunburn. It should be allowed to dry before a person goes outdoors. To be most effective, use sufficient quantities of sunscreen (about 1 ounce per application for an adult); apply it every two hours; and reapply the product frequently after swimming, exercising, sweating or towel drying. Select a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB. Skin cancer prevention is a lifelong effort. Although time is at a premium for most pediatricians, an important aim is to incorporate advice into at least one health maintenance visit per year, beginning in infancy. Not all children sunburn, but all are at risk of adverse effects of UVR exposure on the eyes and immune system. Teachable moments may be found during visits for sunburns or when a teenager is noted to have a tan.

Your Teen

4 in 10 College Students Depressed

A new poll shows that pressure about grades, student loans, relationships and school work is taking a toll on American college students. The Associated Press-mtvU poll shows more than 42 percent of those surveyed at 40 colleges said they had felt down, depressed or hopeless several days during the past two weeks, and 13 percent showed signs of being at risk for at least mild depression, based on the students' answers to a series of questions that medical practitioners use to diagnose depressive illness.

Eighty five percent of those surveyed reported feeling stressed in their daily lives in recent months. The poll looked at over 2,000 undergraduate students ages 18-24 at four-year colleges. It was conducted April 22 to May 4 by Edison Media Research. To protect privacy, the schools where the poll was conducted are not being identified, the students who responded were not asked for their names. The poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The TV network mtvU is operated by the MTV Networks division of Viacom and available at many colleges. MtvU's sponsorship of the poll is related to its mental-health campaign "Half of Us," which it runs with the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to reduce suicide among young people. Many of those coping with feeling depressed complained of trouble sleeping, having little energy or feeling down or hopeless - and most hadn't gotten professional help. Eleven percent had had thoughts that they'd be better off dead or about hurting themselves. Mental health disorders like depression typically begin relatively early in life, doctors say, and college is a natural time for symptoms to emerge. The AP-mtvU poll explored the students' state of mind and the pressures they face, including strains from the tough economy. Among the poll results:

  • Nine percent of students were at risk of moderate to severe depression. That's in line with a recent medical study that found 7 percent of young people had depression.
  • Almost a quarter of those with a parent who had lost a job during the school year showed signs of at least mild depression, more than twice the percentage of those who hadn't had a parent lose a job. More than twice as many students whose parents had lost a job said they had seriously considered ending their own life, 13 percent to 5 percent.
  • Among those who reported serious symptoms of moderate depression or worse, just over a quarter had ever been diagnosed with a mental health condition.
  • More than half of those who reported having seriously considered suicide at some point in the previous year had not received any treatment or counseling.
  • Just a third of those with moderate symptoms of depression or worse had received any support or treatment from a counselor or mental health professional since starting college.
  • Nearly half of those diagnosed with at least moderate symptoms weren't familiar with counseling resources on campus.

Anne Marie Albano, an associate professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University, said college is a "tender age" developmentally, a period when young adults start taking responsibility for their lives. They're selecting careers, moving toward financial independence, establishing long-term relationships, perhaps marrying, and having children. The most troubling thing coming out of the AP-mtvU poll and other studies of young adults dealing with depression, she said, is that "they don't get help" at a time when they're just venturing off on their own. "They have to learn to become their own monitors about their mental health and yet they have no training to do that," she said. The poll also found that 84 percent of students said they'd know where to turn for help if they were in serious emotional distress or thinking about hurting themselves. Most said they'd go first to friends or family. Twenty percent said they'd try school counseling. Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute for Mental Health, said students need to understand that depression is "a very treatable illness." Campus counseling centers are a good resource, he said, although they're not all set up take care of serious mental illnesses. "There should be somebody there who could at least assess this, and in some cases offer reassurance that 'I'm sure you'll feel better after exams are over,'" he said. Serious cases can be referred for treatment, he said - "and treatment works."

Your Teen

Cyberbullying

It used to be that parents only had to worry about their child being bullied while on the playground. But now, with over 50 million children online, parents need to take steps to make sure their children are not being bullied while online.

“When a child is online, you can’t see how the victim is reacting, you can’t see how many people are against one person,” says Dr. Kristy Hagar, an assistant Professor of Psychiatry UT Southwestern Medical Center. She says some of the warning signs of cyberbullying include a child not wanting to go to school, behavioral changes and spending a lot of time online. “Girls tend to cyberbully more frequently than boys,” says Dr. Hagar. She also adds that pre-teens are more likely to tell their parents about it than older children. It is important for parents to talk with their children at an early age about internet safety and predators. Dr. Hagar also says parents should monitor their child’s online activities. “Set ground rules and time limits for computer use, this is the best way to insure safety.”

Your Teen

Teens More Stressed Than Adults

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Teens are feeling more stressed than adults and it’s affecting every aspect of their lives according to the results from a new national survey.

The 2013 “Stress in America” survey involved responses from 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens. Teens reported that during the school year an average stress level of 5.8. That is way above 3.9, which is considered a normal level of stress. Even during the summer months, when the stress level typically decreases, teens averaged a 4.6 score. Ten was the highest score on the stress scale.  

Adults reported more stress as well with an average of 5.1 on the scale.

Teens reported that their main stressor was school, with one out of ten saying that stress led to lower grades. Money was the top reason given for stess among adults, followed by work and the economy.

Thirty-one percent of the teens reported feeling overwhelmed and thirty percent said they feel depressed or sad. Adolescent girls were more likely to feel down from stress than boys, which holds true in the adult population with more women reporting feeling depressed than men. 

 This is the first time the group has focused on teen stress. Other research has studied teen depression and other mental health concerns, but officials say this may be the most comprehensive national look at stress in teens to date. Despite anecdotal reports of high stress, researchers say stress itself in adolescents hasn't been studied broadly; global comparisons have focused on adult stress rather than teens.

Teens reported feeling irritable, angry, nervous, anxious and tired at around the same rate as adults. More than one-third of teens said they were exhausted due to the stress in their lives, and 25 percent skipped a meal because of the added pressure.

Teens seem to realize they are not doing enough to manage their stress with four out of 10 reporting that weren’t actively working towards finding positive ways to cope with their stress and thirteen percent saying that they didn’t do anything to help deal with the added pressure on their lives.

“It is alarming that the teen stress experience is so similar to that of adults. It is even more concerning that they seem to underestimate the potential impact that stress has on their physical and mental health,” APA CEO and executive vice president Norman B. Anderson said in a press release.  “In order to break this cycle of stress and unhealthy behaviors as a nation, we need to provide teens with better support and health education at school and home, at the community level and in their interactions with health care professionals.”

Like adults, stressed kids are not getting enough sleep, overeating, and not exercising.

“When spending time with teens, we can encourage them to exercise, eat well, get the sleep they need and seek support from health care professionals like psychologists to help them develop healthier coping mechanisms for stress sooner rather than later,” said Anderson.

How parents handle stress impacts how their children are able to handle stress. Family dinners together or time that is specifically set aside for family discussions provide a good opportunity to discuss what is going on in each others lives. Talk to your kids about your day and what events caused you stress, what you learned from them and how you handled them. Ask your child to be honest about the kinds of things that make them feel overwhelmed or stressed. It’s not a parent’s job to try and protect their children from everything that is unpleasant, but to teach them positive coping mechanisms so they can grow into healthy and happy adults.

Source: Michelle Castillo, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/stress-in-america-survey-reveals-teens-feel-more-pressure-than-adults/

Sharon Jayson, http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/02/11/stress-teens-psychological/5266739/

Your Teen

Monthly Pot Use Up 80 % Among Teens

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Looking at the latest survey results released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org, one might think the 60s have returned. The survey found that nearly 1 in 10 teens said they smoke marijuana at least 20 or more times a month. That’s up 80 percent for past month marijuana use since the last survey conducted in 2008.

The report by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation also said abuse of prescription medicine may be easing a bit among young people in grades 9 through 12, but still remains high.

That’s a lot of drug use going on with American teens.

You might remember the organization’s ads, “this is your brain on drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s. Since then the organization has changed its name from The Partnership for a Drug-Free America to The Partnership at Drugfree.org. The nonprofit group launched a new name in 2010 to position itself as more of a resource to parents and to avoid the misperception that the group is a government organization.

In the latest survey, researchers gave anonymous questionnaires to 3,322 teens in grades 9-12, that where then filled out at school from March to June 2011.

Partnership President Steve Pasierb says the mindset among some parents is that a little weed or a few pills is no big deal.

"Parents are talking about cocaine and heroin, things that scare them," said Pasierb. "Parents are not talking about prescription drugs and marijuana. They can't wink and nod. They need to be stressing the message that this behavior is unhealthy."

Use of harder drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine has stabilized in recent years, the group's survey showed. But past-month usage of marijuana grew from 19 percent in 2008 to 27 percent last year. Also alarming, says Pasierb, is the percentage of teens smoking pot 20 or more times a month. That rate went from 5 percent in 2008 to 9 percent last year, or about 1.5 million teens smoking pot that frequently.

A recent study sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the University of Michigan, showed similar results. That study also found marijuana use rising among teens the past few years, reversing a long decline in the previous decade.

"These findings are deeply disturbing as the increases we're seeing in heavy, regular marijuana use among high school students can spell real trouble for these teens later on," Pasierb said in a written statement, adding kids who start in teen years are more likely to have substance abuse problems later in life.

Other findings from the report:

  • One in 10 teens report using prescription painkillers - Vicodin or OxyContin - in the past year, down from a peak of 15 percent in 2009 and 14 percent in 2010.
  • Just over half of Hispanic teens report using an illicit drug, such as Ecstasy or cocaine, in the past year. That compares to 39 percent for Caucasian teens and 42 percent for African American teens.
  • Past-year alcohol use and past-month drinking is holding steady from the 2008 report at 56 percent and 38 percent respectively.

The Marijuana policy Project, which advocates legalization, has its own take on the survey. They say making marijuana use legal for adults might actually help cut teen usage.

"We definitely don't think that minors should be using marijuana any more than they should be drinking or using tobacco, but arresting people for doing that never stops minors," said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the group. "If we remove marijuana from the criminal market and have the market run by responsible business people that have an incentive to check IDs and not sell to minors, then we might see those rates drop again."

Parents are often at a loss on how to talk to their kids about drug use. Some baby boomers may feel a little hypocritical telling their own kids not to use drugs when they did the same thing at about the same age. The good news is that parents can do a lot to help their teens understand the damage that drug use can do to their lives.

Sometimes knowing what not to say and do, when you have these conversations, can keep your advise from falling on deaf ears. 

Cbsnews.com offers these 14 suggestions from addiction specialist Dr. Joseph Lee, a spokesman for the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and medical director the Hazelden Center for Youth and Family, an addiction treatment facility in Minneapolis.

1. Failing to set expectations.

Teens who know their parents disapprove of drug use are less likely to use - and vice versa. Dr. Lee says it's best to let your kids know how you feel about drugs before they hit their teenage years.

2. Ignoring mental health issues.

More than two-thirds of young substance abusers suffer from mental health problems, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, and eating disorders. As a rule, substance abuse and mental health issues come together in young people.

If your child undergoes an evaluation for drug abuse, make sure it includes a thorough mental health screening.

3. Assuming experimentation is no big deal.

Experimentation doesn't necessarily lead to addiction, and some parents figure that there's nothing especially worrisome about a child trying drugs or alcohol. In fact, even dabbling in substance abuse can cause big problems, such as car accidents, sexual assault, and serious overdoses. It's not a normal rite of passage.

4. Being dishonest about your drug use.

Parents often feel uncomfortable discussing with their children their own experiences with drugs or alcohol. There's certainly no reason to wax nostalgic about the "glory days," but Dr. Lee recommends being honest if kids ask. "I am not aware of research indicating that an informed discussion with kids about your drug use leads to them to use drugs," he says.

5. Blaming yourself or your spouse.

There's no such thing as a perfect parent, and there's no use in shouldering all the blame (or blaming your spouse) if a child has a drug or alcohol problem. Feeling guilty isn't just unpleasant, it can complicate substance abuse treatment - by dividing the family just when it's important to pull together as a team.

Don't ignore the past, Dr. Lee says, but keep your eyes on the present. If your child is involved in therapy, there will be ample time to make things right.

6. Setting a bad example.

Think teens simply don't pay much attention to their parents? Research suggests otherwise. Model the kind of behavior you want from your teen.

7. Being judgmental.

Being firm is one thing, but "laying down the law" in a moralistic way can close off lines of communication. Try not to be judgmental or to jump to conclusions. Do all you can to make your child feel comfortable about coming to you for help, if it's needed.

8. Failing to consider risk factors. 

Just as obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, smoking is a risk factor for teen substance abuse. Other substance abuse risk factors include early aggressive or disruptive behaviors, depression, ADHD, and anxiety. If your child has any risk factors, get help.

9. Confusing intelligence with maturity. 

Just because a child is smart doesn't mean he/she is mature enough to have good judgment about drugs and alcohol. The brain region responsible for judgment - the prefrontal cortex - doesn't fully mature until a person is in his/her mid-20s.

10. Not locking the medicine cabinet.

Prescription drug abuse is a huge problem in the U.S. The CDC says one in five teens experiments with prescription drugs at some point, and most teens obtain the drugs not from drug dealers or the Internet but from friends and family.

Be sure to keep track of all drugs in your home. If you no longer need pills, get rid of them. And pay attention to other substances around the house that have the potential for abuse, including solvents, aerosols, etc.

11. Failing to consider family history.

Like many diseases, addiction can run in families. If it runs heavily in yours, it might be a good idea to adopt a strict no-drinking policy in your home. For some families, it might be okay to let a teen have a sip of wine on a holiday occasion when others are drinking - but not all.

There are no hard and fast rules for what is acceptable for all families, Dr. Lee says. And a teen can develop a substance abuse problem even in the absence of any family history of addiction.

12. Not noticing changes in your teen.

Changes in sleep, mood, friends, activity level, academic performance, weight, personal hygiene, etc. can all signal a substance abuse problem. So pay attention. Monitor your child's welfare with particular care at times of transition - moving to a new school, onset of puberty, breakups with boyfriends or girlfriends, etc.

13. Putting off getting help.

Two million children between the ages of 12 and 17 need treatment for a substance abuse problem, according to a recent survey. But only about 150,000 get the help they need. If you think your teen may have a problem, have him/her assessed by a child psychiatrist, pediatrician, or another expert. Remember, prevention and early intervention are key.

14. Not talking about driving.

The top three causes of teen death in the U.S. are accidents, homicides, and suicides. Each of these problems is linked to substance abuse. Make sure your teen knows about the dangers of driving under the influence - and pay attention to his/her whereabouts.

Source: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57426249-10391704/report-frequent...

Your Teen

Almost Half of Teens Drink, Use Drugs, Smoke

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If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, there is a good chance your teen will try these drugs.If you have a teenager, there’s a high probability that he or she will be exposed to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes during their high school years. And, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there is a good chance that your teen will try these drugs.

A new report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) has even more startling news for parents. Nearly half of all American high school students smoke, drink alcohol, or use illicit drugs. One in four, who start using these substances before they turn 18, may become addicts. The report also indicates that one-quarter of people in the U.S. who began using drugs or alcohol before age 18 meet the criteria for drug or alcohol addiction, compared with one of 25 Americans who started using drugs or alcohol when they were 21 or older. Why is dinking, smoking and using drugs more addictive for a younger person? Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction expert in Dallas, says that from the age of 15 to 22, the adolescent brain is still developing. “A complex layer of neural networks is being laid down and brain growth is exponential during these years, so even a little bit of injury from alcohol or drugs is greatly magnified.” “I was surprised at the prevalence of substance use disorders among young people,” says study author Susan E. Foster, CASA’s vice president and director of policy research and analysis. The new study opens a window of opportunity for providers and parents to intervene and prevent addiction, she says. “Do everything you can to get young people through their teen years without using drugs or alcohol. Every year they don’t use drugs or alcohol reduces their risk of negative consequences, such as addiction.” The report also mentioned other findings that give parents an insight to the kinds of drugs teens are choosing. - The most common drug of choice among high school students in the U.S. is alcohol, followed by cigarettes and marijuana. - Ten million, or 75%, of high school students have tried tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, or cocaine; and one in five of them meet the medical criteria for addiction. - Of the 6.1 million, or 46%, of high school students who currently use addictive substances, one in three is addicted to these substances. The findings are based on surveys of 1,000 high school students, 1,000 parents of high school students, and 500 school officers, along with expert interviews, focus groups, a literature review of 2,000 scientific articles, and an analysis of seven data sets. “Health care providers need to integrate screening for substance abuse into their practice, and treat and refer patients,” Foster says. This may be easier said than done because there is a dearth of addiction treatment information and options available as well as insurance barriers, she says. Most teens don't begin taking drugs thinking they will become addicted. They usually start trying drugs or alcohol to have a good time and be more like their friends. There’s a certain vulnerability to peer pressure that often replaces common sense, and moral teachings. According to TeenDrugAbuse.org many teens who are addicted don't see a problem with their behavior or their drug use. Drugs make them feel good, and are a way to relieve the stress of school, problems at home, disagreements with friends, and other pressures of growing up. “Teen substance abuse is a huge problem,” says Stephen Grcevich, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Family Center by the fall in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. “The numbers in the new report are very consistent with what we see in context of our practice and surrounding areas.” But teen substance abuse and addiction are not inevitable, he says. Preventing substance abuse starts with “intentional parenting” at an early age. “You have to have a plan that allows you to be a positive influence on your children at a young age so that when they get to an age where they are exposed to drugs and alcohol, they will know how to say no,” he says. “Kids who do well academically, are involved in religion, and/or are actively engaged in sports are less likely to get involved with these substances,” he says. “We need to look at giving kids something meaningful and important to do.” For many teens, the stigma of drug use, drinking and smoking has vanished. It’s become acceptable, and almost expected, behavior. It’s time for parents and caregivers to take the blinders off and become educated about teenagers and drug use. Parents often notice that their teen will start pushing away from their guidance, and advice. Sometimes communication is almost impossible when both teen and parent don’t agree on a particular behavior. But this is the most critical time for parents to keep trying and finding new ways to reach their teen. If the parent – child relationship reaches the point where no valuable communication is happening, then you may want to try family counseling. It’s worth the heartbreak, effort, costs, and stress in the long run.

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