“My mom was more like a teenager than a mom, more like a friend… She gave me pills for the first time… In fact, both of my parents are active users…witnessing it all, I soon followed in their footsteps at the age of only ten… My consistent drug use began when I moved back in with my mom full-time… My drugs of choice… taking lots of pills…Percocet, Vicodin, and lots of downers… It really didn’t matter I’d take whatever I could get my hands on to get high… I wasn’t only using drugs but I was dealing with other demons, depression—physical and verbal abuse from my parents… To cope, I began abusing myself with drugs, cutting, bulimia, anorexia, and engaging in risky behaviors with the guys who came in and out of my life… I started stealing and sneaking out late nights for attention, but it was pointless my mom was always high and never noticed me.
“The cycle only got worse. My mom lost her place to stay and we all ended up in a homeless shelter… I was relocated with my dad and in addition to his abuse, I was introduced to uppers (coke, meth, and ecstasy)… I could only endure this for three years…I ran away and never returned home… I found an old friend who also used drugs and we moved in together, but it was short lived… My grandparents located me and got custody so I moved again… I still somehow couldn’t cope and I snuck out the very next day to get high… I did every drug that I bought (coke, pills, liquid codeine) that day and wondered around in a daze… Feeling like I might have a seizure…I found myself in the bathroom at some park and not recognizing the face staring back at me in the mirror… I felt like the sun went down on my life that day…my eyes were sunken…black and blue…there were cuts…cuts all over my body… The sun went down on my life that day because it was the first time I had ever looked at myself in the mirror after I started getting high… I was just 13…. I was terrified…. I saw a monster in front of me” (Phoenix House, 2017).
Hannah’s story is like the story of many teens who are the offspring of drug addicted parents. Hannah represents the growing number of addicts in the American population under the age of 18. Her struggle represents the image of the youngest demographic keeping rhythm and gaining momentum with the current opioid epidemic. Hannah’s problem—her outer appearance barely skims the surface of the havoc that drugs and substance abuse cause inside the adolescent mind, body and spirit.
During the span of ages 12 to 17 (adolescents), it can be one of the most turbulent times in the life of the individual (Gurung, 2014). Primarily because it’s the time that people experience the mismatch between biological and psychological factors during puberty (Gurung, 2014). Accommodating the mismatch is often the onset and outer display of rebellion, emotional instability, behavioral problems and experimentation with illegal substances (Gurung, 2014). According to research, this isn’t all encompassing and adolescent males are more prone to the behavior than their counterpart females. Yet, parents are still more apt to equate the signs and signals of a teen abusing drugs with those of someone experiencing the normal emotional imbalances associated with puberty.
Here are just a few of the indicators that parents can look for and make somewhat of a better determination about whether their teen may be experimenting with illegal substances:
- First, if there is no justification for your teens sudden withdrawal from family and activities, tiredness, depression, growing need for money (Mayo Clinic, 2014) and hostile moods; a developing drug addiction may be at the source (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2014).
- Teens with drug problems will often make a change in social structures and hang out with a different peer group (NIH, 2014).
- They may become careless groomers (NIH, 2014).
- Academics will often decline and school attendance will be lacking (NIH, 2014).
- Motivation towards favorite activities will decline and eating or sleeping habits may become sporadic (NIH, 2014).
- Relationships will often begin to deteriorate with friends and family members (NIH, 2014).
The clinical symptoms of drug abuse often vary according to the type of drug being used. The Mayo Clinic mentions several types of drugs with varying degrees of symptoms, which includes marijuana and other cannabis-containing substances, synthetic cannabinoids, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, meth, cocaine, other stimulants, club drugs, hallucinogens, inhalants and narcotic painkillers.
For more information on this topic, please read “Diseases and Conditions: Drug Addiction Symptoms” by Mayo Clinic Staff.
Gurung, R. (2014). Heath Psychology: A cultural approach. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Mayo Clinic. (2014, December 5). Retrieved from Diseases and Conditions: Drug addiction symptoms: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/drug-addiction/basics/symptoms/con-20020970
National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014, January). Retrieved from What are signs of drug use in adolescents, and what role can parents play in getting treatment?: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-adolescent-substance-use-disorder-treatment-research-based-guide/frequently-asked-questions/what-are-signs-drug-use-in-adolescents-what-role-can-parents-play-in-getting-treatment
Phoenix House. (2012, October 2). Retrieved from True Story: Savannah: http://www.phoenixhouse.org/news-and-views/true-stories/true-story-savanna/