Derailing kids: Alcohol and drugs send children as young as 10 off-course
Genetics is just one puzzle piece. Khaleghi proposes an experiment: Watch TV with a child and see how many times problems are solved with a pill or a drink — for headache, for indigestion, for sexual dysfunction. Or how often a parent, on screen, drinks — to celebrate, to cope, or just because. Her count shocked her.
Warning signs of substance abuse include suddenly having new friends or losing old ones, skipped classes, falling grades, wanting to be left alone at home or loss of interest in formerly favorite activities, among others.
Those can happen without drugs. But a cluster may indicate use, Eiden said.
Khaleghi said most of her patients started with alcohol or prescription medications. "It's an issue of availability."
Parents often have no idea what's going on in their communities and even in their homes. Deuter described parties where kids bring whatever prescription drugs they can find. They are pooled together and kids take them by the handful, unsure and uncaring what they are and what the effect will be.
If a child is already drinking or using, Eiden said it's crucial to figure out the extent of the problem. Consult someone who knows a lot about drugs and alcohol. Severity, frequency, type of drug, context for use, abuse, dependence and other issues need to be part of the evaluation, she said.
An in-patient program may not be required. But if children are addicted or using at a level that could result in addiction, Deuter said they probably need to go into a program where use "forcibly stops. If it has its hooks in, you can't reason them out of it. It's like being taken hostage. At that point, it's too big" without professional help.
People need to seek help from those who regularly treat others with the same issue, Deuter said. Especially since brains are still forming up to about age 25, it's a mistake to go to someone who might with best intentions but little experience provide the wrong treatment, including medication dose.
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