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What Parents Should Know About Substance Abuse

Substance abuse goes beyond experimentation with drugs – it means drug use is disrupting someone’s life. If you suspect your child has a substance abuse problem, call SAFELine at 814-456-SAFE (7233)

Facts about substance abuse among Erie County students:

  • 26 percent of Erie County students used alcohol within a month, and 16 percent admitted to binge drinking during the past two weeks. These numbers include 42 percent of high school seniors.
  • 10 percent of Erie County students have been drunk or high at school.
  • 25 percent of high school seniors used marijuana within a month.

Common signs that substance abuse is interfering in daily activities include:

  • A change in grades or study habits
  • Risky sexual behavior or sexual assault
  • Loss of motivation
  • Driving under the influence
  • Criminal activity
  • Mood swings
  • Sudden disruption of family relationships
  • Rule violations at home and/or school
  • Significant conflict with adults

If you suspect your child may have a substance abuse problem, watch for the following:

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Not coming home on time
  • Secrecy and lying
  • Missing money or valuables
  • Impaired behavior (slurring words, stumbling, confusion, memory problems, or sudden inattention/agitation)
  • Finding drug-related items (roach clips, empty bottles, empty plastic sandwich bags, pipes)
  • Smelling alcohol or smoke on your child.

How Parents Can Help Their Children Overcome Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can start very early in a person’s life. Many recovering addicts point to middle or high school as the time when their problems began. However, there are options available to help with substance abuse and addiction.

If you suspect your child has a substance abuse problem, call SAFELine at 814-456-SAFE (7233). SAFELine can help you have your child screened for substance abuse and placed into appropriate treatment.

In addition to reaching out for professional help:

  • Pay attention to how your child behaves and spend time talking to them every day. Ask questions, both about your child and their friends.
  • Monitor alcohol in your home so you notice if any is missing.
  • Keep your prescription drugs locked up.
  • Monitor your child’s activities. If your child tells you he or she is going somewhere, stop by to check.
  • Respect your child’s privacy, but also your authority. Parents may need to periodically check their kids’ rooms or monitor social networking and texting. If you talk openly with your kids about why you are doing this, they may not like it but, in time, they may appreciate your attention to their safety.
  • Always be there for your child. Tell your child you can get them out of a bad situation and encourage them to call you if their friends are engaging in behavior that makes them uncomfortable or if they need a ride home.
  • Limit alone time after school by getting your kids involved in after school activities. Not only do activities fill your child’s time, they also send the message that there are other things in life besides drugs and alcohol.
  • Model the behavior you’d like to see. Don’t use drugs or smoke. If you drink alcohol, do it in moderation and don’t get drunk.
  • Spend time together. Families who eat meals together and enjoy activities together have children who are less likely to abuse drugs.