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Back to School and Teen Drug Addiction

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Aug 24th 2012

Back to School and Teen Drug AddictionA study out of Columbia University shows that teen drug addiction is now the nation's number one health problem. The findings are that 75% of all High School students have used alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs, while 20% of those are addicted. Because of their age, youngsters are especially vulnerable to the negative effects of drugs and alcohol. The teen brain is still developing, as are their entire bodies. These substance impact the nervous system, neurons in the brain as well as the balance of brain chemicals.  Among the substances that have a negative impact on developing brains is marijuana. What is alarming is the fact that marijuana use among teens is drastically increasing.  In addition, prescription pain killers have to be included in the list of dangerous drugs that teens are using.

Experts state that teen abuse and addiction are especially worrying because, untreated, these kids become addicted during their adulthood.

It is vitally important that parents be aware of this. It's not easy to detect the presence of substance abuse among teenagers but there are signs and symptoms to look for. Some examples are:

1. A sudden change in appearance. Youngsters accustomed to carefully grooming themselves and taking good care of their hygiene and now look unkempt is something to take seriously. Even if it isn't the result of drug addiction, poor hygiene can result from depression.

2. A sudden drop in grades down to C's, D's and failures in students who have always done well is another serious sign that something is wrong.

3. Coming home late at night, long after curfew.

4. Big changes in behavior such as no longer wanting to practice sports and no longer wanting to participate in sports is another warning sign. Of course, it does not have to be sports. Any withdrawal from what were the teen's interests is a warning sign.

It is imperative that any parent who sees these and other signs that something is wrong bring their kids to the family physician as a starting point to getting help. It is also important that parents council their kids about the dangers of drug abuse. Parents must emphasize the fact that it's not ok to try drugs because it's parting of being young. That seems to be an attitude that is quite prevalent and that attitude sends the message that drug alcohol experimentation is safe and to be expected. It is neither.

As schools open once again, parents must be aware of the dangers their kids face. Kids of all ages now face the very real possibility that they will be invited to try drugs in or outside of school. Talk to your kids and be aware.

Your comments are encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD



Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at for details.

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