If you are a parent of a teenager you are well aware that there is no handbook on how to raise and guide your child through these tumultuous, complicating and confusing years. All teenagers experience moments of frustration, irrationality, anger, and mood swings, these behavioural and emotional highs and lows are typical of this time in your son or daughter’s life. However sometimes a parent notices that their teenagers’ emotional and behavioural markers are slightly different; they feel that there is something more going on than what the average teenager experiences. They wonder whether despite all of their warnings and lectures their son or daughter is experimenting or is addicted to drugs. There are many symptoms to look for and when we were doing our research, we found that the following signs are good indicators that your son or daughter may have a problem:
Eyes that are bloodshot or pupils that are smaller or larger than normal.
Changes in appetite or sleep patterns. Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
Deterioration in personal grooming or physical appearance.
Unusual smells on breath, body, or clothing.
Shakes, tremors, incoherent or slurred speech, impaired or unstable coordination.
Behavioral signs of alcohol or drug abuse
Skipping class, declining grades, getting in trouble at school
Missing money, valuables, prescription or prescription drugs, borrowing and stealing money
Acting isolated, silent, withdrawn, engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors
Clashes with family values and beliefs
Demanding more privacy, locking doors and avoiding eye contact
Using eye drops to mask bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils
Unexplained, confusing change in personality and/or attitude.
Sudden mood changes, irritability, angry outbursts or laughing at nothing.
Periods of unusual hyperactivity or agitation.
Lack of motivation; inability to focus, appears lethargic or “spaced out.”
Appears fearful, withdrawn, anxious, or paranoid, with no apparent reason.
If your son or daughter exhibits these symptoms in addition to the obvious of seeking out a therapist to get them help, you also need to get help for yourself; seek out a support group to help you through this very difficult time for you and your family. You are not alone in your fight to win back your child, there are many families from every financial, ethnic, religious and social group that are facing the same struggles you are, unfortunately, ADDICTION DOES NOT DISCRIMINATE! Support groups such like Nar-anon, NCADD, CAMH, and Learn to Cope hold meetings for people whose loved ones are suffering from drug addiction; if a group environment is not your cup of tea Learn to Cope (www.learn2cope.org/) and MD Junction (www.mdjunction.com/parents-of-addicts) offers online forums where there is always someone, somewhere who is ready to chat.
While getting your child into the appropriate rehab facility is critical, once they complete the program and are in recovery they will require training to reclaim their life and their place in society. In Toronto, Canada, the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society is a not- for- profit organization with a mandate to support individuals in recovery,and through their various programs and services they help individuals in recovery successfully re-enter society; Employment Preparation Programs, Job Placement/Maintenance Programs, and Pre-Employment Personal Life Management Programs are a few of the programs they run in a welcoming and safe environment.*
The journey you and your family are going to embark upon will be rough, there will be ups and downs but never lose hope and never give up. Success and failure will be part of the journey (see our blog post Failure on the Road to Success 24/02/15) it is this tenacity of spirit which will best serve you and your child. Those who are successful in their recovery claim it is in part because the people who loved them never gave up, never stopped pushing them to quit, never stopped letting them believe they were loved unconditionally and worth the fight.
*For information about the Oasis Addiction and Recovery Society call (416) 461 7739 or go to www.oasismovement.org