– Ebony, high school student
The billions of dollars spent on the war against drugs may have increased awareness and saved lives in this country, but the totalnumber of kids who use tobacco, alcohol and drugs is still staggering. A new Federal report showing how many kids begin experimenting every day is startling.
Every single day in America, 8,000 teenagers have their first drink; 4,000 try their first cigarette. More than 3,600 smoke marijuana for the first time, and 4,000 are introduced to inhalants, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs.
That’s just today; at midnight the count begins all over again.
“For a lot of kids, it’s just the opening up of adolescence. Suddenly they have money; they have disposable income. They have new peer groups that they are trying to measure up to,” says Armando Corpus, drug treatment counselor.
Ebony Marie was one teen trying to measure up.
“It was just the thing, and everybody’s smoking and parties and raves and all kinds of drugs,” says White.
At 13, Ebony started smoking cigarettes and then moved on to marijuana, alcohol, cocaine, and finally, methamphetamines. Within a few months she was a drug addict.
“I am [a drug addict] and I know I am because I love drugs,” says Ebony.
Experts say that a teen’s first experience with drugs or alcohol makes the decision to use drugs again a lot easier.
“There is a line that you cross, at least psychologically, that this is something I do; at least, this is something I experiment with,” says Corpus.
He says too many parents surrender to the philosophy that teen experimentation is inevitable, and then they are surprised.
“I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve come across who say, ‘All I knew was that he was smoking marijuana once in a while. I didn’t know he was doing cocaine. I didn’t know he was doing methamphetamine,’” says Corpus.
Now in recovery, Ebony has been off drugs for several months. She hopes forever.
“Because it doesn’t get you anywhere but jails, institutions and death,” says Ebony.
Tips for Parents
- To help prevent your child from using illegal substances or turning to prescription drugs to get high, it’s a good idea to begin discussing substance abuse with your child at an early age, and continue openly communicating about the issues as your child grows. (Nemours Foundation)
- Take advantage of “teachable moments.” If you and your child see a character on TV or in a movie who is smoking or using an illegal substance, talk to your child about what smoking and substance abuse does to a person’s body, mind, life. (Nemours Foundation)
- When your child becomes a teenager, you can address the issue in a more direct way. Talk about both the more immediate and the long-term health effects of substance abuse and tell your child where you stand. (Nemours Foundation)
- If you suspect that your child may be abusing prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or painkillers, it’s a good idea to: (Nemours Foundation)
- Lock your medicine cabinet, or keep medicines that could potentially be abused in a less accessible place.
- Avoid stockpiling medicines. Having too many at your teen’s disposal could make abusing them more tempting.
- Keep track of how much is in each container in your medicine cabinet.
- Keep an eye out not only for traditional-looking cough and cold remedies in your teen’s room, but also strange-looking tablets.
- Monitor your child’s Internet usage. Be on the lookout for suspicious websites and emails that seem to be promoting the abuse of drugs, both legal and illegal.
- It’s also important to provide a warm and open environment at home where your child is encouraged to talk about feelings, and knows that he or she can bring you tricky questions and concerns without fear of judgment and punishment. (Nemours Foundation)
- Nemours Foundation