Do You Suspect Your College Teen is Abusing Drugs?
Has your teen (young adult) moved back home from college for the summer? Your family is likely thrilled to have them under your roof again, but may be experiencing a bit of tension, fueled by your undergrad’s emotional state. Perhaps they’re struggling with loss of independence, missing college friends, disappointed that high school friendships aren’t what they used to be, uninspired at their summer job, frustrated to have to follow rules or just really, really bored.
Did you know two-thirds of teens and young adults who report misuse of prescription medicine are getting it from friends, family and acquaintances?
Maybe they were anxious about finals and now possibly apprehensive about coming home for the summer. Teenagers usually go off to college with a sense of excitement about the prospect of being on their own. It’s often their first taste of freedom from their parents. Your teen has spent a year in a more unstructured and unsupervised environment.
It was a year of growth for them and, in reality, you may not know your child as well as you used to. Now they’re coming home to a family that expects them to be the same person they were when you dropped them off at school almost a year earlier. For all of these reasons, it’s common for them to be a bit anxious about coming home.
Help your teen learn coping skills
Your teen may be struggling to figure out where they belong. Their friends may have changed, and things may not be exactly the way they thought they would be. Having a conversation with a sense of understanding and compassion can let your teen know you are on their side.
Whatever it is they’re facing, help them understand that not everything in life will go the way we want it to. Learning healthy coping skills is an important part of being an adult, and using alcohol or other substances to cope with emotional pain is not a solution.
Show your concern and ask permission to help your teen find healthy alternatives to dealing with difficult feelings rather than turning to substances. Sit down with your teen and have them make a list of positive skills to implement in their day-to-day life while at home. This could be whatever they enjoy, including sports, yoga, listening to music, hiking, dancing or even trying out a new activity. Volunteering is a great way to broaden awareness, meet new people, and give back to others. It also instills self-esteem to help make better choices.
However, it’s important to stay alert to possible mental health issues. Between the ages of 18 and 25, a lot of mental health disorders such as anxiety can develop. There is a strong link between mental and physical health issues and substance use. Be sure to find mental health resources for your teen if needed.
With young adult teenagers struggling with mental health it can be challenging to convince them to seek counseling or outside services. Asking a close friend or relative, someone they admire to step-in and speak with them — in some situations can help convince them to get help. There are also excellent young adult life-skills programs that can help get your teen back on course, offering the emotional needs as well as coping skills that would benefit not only their personal life but their future.
Is your teen using drugs
If your teen has been suffering with anxiety, depression or stress through their first year of college — and is now anxious about coming home for the summer, the use of over-the-counter drugs such as cough syrup medicines, is very popular among young people to self-medicate. It’s time to spring clean your medicine cabinets.
Don’t overlook the prescription drugs in your home, which teens often have easy access to and can use. Be sure your prescription medicines are secured and that expired/unused medicines in your home are properly disposed of.
It is important to note that car crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teens. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest for drivers aged 15-20. Driving under the influence and texting while driving are incredibly dangerous. Make it clear to your teen that this behavior is unacceptable, and that if they need a ride or help getting out of a situation, you are there for them.
Lastly, remind your teen that you love them, care about them, and are there to talk about these – or any other – issues that they’re dealing with. It’s not all about the topic of drinking, drug use and safety – it’s about maintaining a generally healthy, supportive relationship. Your teen needs to know that if any problem or difficult situation arises, they can always turn to you for help – whether they’re away at college or back at home.
Safeguard your home
Safety tips from Drugfree.org
Step 1: Monitor
How aware are you of the prescription medications currently in your home? Would you know if some of your pills were missing? From this day forward, make sure you can honestly answer yes.
Start by taking note of how many pills are in each of your prescription bottles or pill packets, and keep track of refills. This goes for your own medicine, as well as for your kids and other members of the household. If you find you need to refill your medicine more often than expected, that could indicate a problem.
If your child has been prescribed medicine, be sure you control its use by monitoring dosages and refills. You need to be especially vigilant with medicine known to be addictive and commonly abused such as opioids (prescription pain relievers), benzodiazepines (sedatives and anti-anxiety medications) and stimulants (ADHD medications).
Make sure your friends, parents of your child’s friends, neighbors and relatives — especially grandparents — are also aware of the risks. Encourage them to regularly monitor the medicine in their homes as well.
Step 2: Secure
Approach securing your prescriptions the same way you would other valuables in your home, like jewelry or cash. There’s no shame in helping protect those items, and the same holds true for your medicine.
Remove prescriptions from the medicine cabinet and secure them in a place only you know about. If possible, keep all medicine, both prescription and over-the-counter, in a safe place, such as a locked cabinet your teen cannot access.
Step 3: Dispose
Safely disposing of expired or unused medicine is critical to helping protect your kids, family and home. And it decreases the opportunity for visitors in your home, like your kids’ friends, to misuse medicine as well.
The ideal way to do this is by participating in a safe drug disposal program – either a drug take-back day, an ongoing program in your community, a drug deactivation bag, or a drug mail-back program. To find a take-back location or event near you, visit the American Medicine Chest Challenge or the DEA website.
Also read: How Short Talks Can Build Strong Relationships.
If your young adult is still struggling and you’ve exhausted your local resources, contact us to learn more about how life skills programs for 18-21 year-olds could possibly motivate and help your son or daughter.
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