Riskly behavior: Many teens in search of quick thrills never realize the consequences

By BlueMystic · May 28, 2006 · ·
  1. BlueMystic

    Riskly behavior
    Many teens in search of quick thrills never realize the consequences


    As the school year comes to a close, 'tis the season for proms, graduations, last flings and parties.

    For some teens, health experts say, it also can be the season for dangerous behavior ? drinking alcohol, taking illegal drugs, abusing medication and inhaling household products.

    Teens who engage in these activities often are seeking the quick thrill, never considering the fact that the result can be serious injury or even death.

    Experts say it's important to talk to kids about such risky behavior, but acknowledge that it's not as easy as it used to be.

    "A lot of times, parents have never heard of the things kids are doing," says Charleston family therapist Susan Johnson. "Parents know about alcohol and drug abuse, but they don't know these newer ways to get high."

    What's more, teens, and many times even younger children, often do know about those things.

    "Parents need to stay current and keep the lines of communication open," she says. "Talk to your children about drugs, and do it often."

    Kids who learn about the risks of drugs at home are half as likely as their peers to try or use drugs, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

    "Risk-taking is fairly common during adolescence and the teen years," Johnson says. "It's how kids learn new things, but it can also be a problem if your child takes the wrong risks. By modeling positive risk-taking, parents can help teens through this time."

    Teenagers often are drawn to danger by peer pressure, oppositional behavior (trying to be the opposite of what their parents are) and feelings of invincibility, according to the Campaign for Our Children (www.cfoc.org).

    New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics, found that teens who participate in a variety of physical activities, particularly with their parents, are at decreased risk for drinking, drugs, violence, smoking, sex and delinquency.

    "Adolescents who spend a lot of time watching TV or playing computer video games tend to be at higher risk for engaging in all of these risky behaviors," says study co-author Penny Gordon-Larsen, assistant professor of nutrition at UNC and a fellow at the Carolina Population Center.

    "Anything we can do to get kids to be physically active will help them in terms of their physical health, but this research suggests that engaging in a variety of activities may also have social, emotional and cognitive benefits."

    Teenagers with low self-esteem or family issues are more at risk for self-destructive behaviors. Another study in Pediatrics found that obese kids have lower self-esteem than their nonobese peers, making them more likely to engage in risky behaviors.


    Each day, 7,000 kids in the United States under the age of 16 take their first drink, according to the Leadership to Keep Children Alcohol Free (www.alcoholfreechildren.org).

    How can you tell if your child is drinking? If several of the following signs occur at the same time, or they happen suddenly or are extreme in nature, it could indicate an alcohol problem, the group says:

    --Mood changes: flare-ups of temper, irritability and defensiveness.

    --School problems: poor attendance, low grades and/or disciplinary action.

    --Rebelling against family rules.

    --Switching friends, along with a reluctance to have you get to know their new friends.

    --A "nothing matters" attitude: sloppy appearance, lack of involvement in former interests, general low energy.

    --Finding alcohol in your child's possession or smelling alcohol on your child.

    --Physical or mental problems: memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination or slurred speech.


    Teen use of illegal drugs such as marijuana and Ecstasy has declined in recent years, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, but they are still a problem.

    "Parents often tell me they had no idea their child was doing drugs," Johnson says. "Usually, there are tell-tale signs, but parents might ignore them."

    If your child has been smoking, you can probably smell it on his breath, in his hair or on his clothes. However, if he comes home chewing gum, you might also want to take a closer look to see if he is covering something up.

    Heavy-lidded, bloodshot or dilated eyes can be a sign of drug use. Snorting cocaine can cause nosebleeds. Burns on the lips or fingers may indicate your child is smoking a substance through a hot glass or metal pipe.

    Unusual behavior also can be indicative of drug use. Hysterical laughing, clumsiness or even an atypically sullen attitude can signal a drug problem.

    Other signs can include secretiveness, decreased motivation, stealing, a change in friends or a cash-flow problem.


    Inhalants are used by more teens than any illegal drug except marijuana, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which last week released the results of a 2005 study showing that as many as one in five teenagers have abused inhalants.

    Inhalants, which are poisons and toxins, are often the first substance abused by youngsters, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition. Inhalants are inexpensive, easy to get and easy to hide. They don't require a dealer or any special paraphernalia.

    While inhalant use ? "huffing" or "sniffing" ? is on the rise, fewer than 1 in 20 parents believe their children have ever done it. As a result, parents often don't talk to their children about the dangers.

    The chemicals used as inhalants are found in more than 1,000 common household products.

    Generally, products that are adhesives, aerosols, solvents, gases or cleaning agents can be inhaled, often by way of a plastic bag, an inhalant-soaked rag or directly from the container.

    Inhalants starve the body of oxygen and force the heart to beat irregularly and more rapidly.

    The chemicals act quickly to give users a slight stimulation, a feeling of less inhibition or loss of consciousness, but they also can cause Sudden Sniffing Death Syndrome, even the first time they are used. Chronic inhalant users can suffer permanent brain damage or risk hearing loss, bone-marrow damage, short-term memory loss, limb spasms or liver and kidney damage.

    According to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (www.inhalants.org), signs a child may be using inhalants can include: paint or stains on body, clothing, rags or bags; unusual breath odor or chemical odor on clothing; slurred or disoriented speech; anxiety, excitability, irritability or restlessness; missing household items; red or runny eyes or nose; spots or sores around the mouth; drunk, dazed or dizzy appearance; nausea or loss of appetite.

    Inhalants are physically and psychologically addicting and users suffer withdrawal symptoms, which can include hallucinations, nausea, excessive sweating, hand tremors, muscle cramps, headaches, chills and delirium tremens, according to the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition.

    Prescription, OTC drugs

    Kids as young as 12 abuse prescription drugs ? pain relievers, stimulants, sedatives and tranquilizers ? to "self-medicate," according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

    Because they are often in the child's own home, prescription pills are easier for teens to get than illegal drugs.

    Teens often think these types of medications are safer than street drugs, but they're wrong. Taking prescription medications without a doctor's supervision can be just as dangerous and as potentially lethal as taking illicit drugs, experts warn.

    Parents should know what medicines, including over-the-counter drugs, are in their home and pay attention to quantities.

    Signs that a child may be abusing medications can include: sweating, high body temperature, dry mouth, blurred vision, hallucinations, delusions, nausea, stomach pains, vomiting, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, numbness in toes and fingers, red face, headache and loss of consciousness.

    What to do

    "Kids need to hear from their parents that drug and alcohol use will not be allowed," Johnson says. "They need to know they will be held accountable and what the consequences are."

    The rules should be simple: No drug or alcohol use by teens will be allowed, according to Parents: the Antidrug (www.antidrug.com). The punishment should be straightforward and meaningful.

    If you think your child may already be abusing drugs or alcohol, let him know you know and tell him how you feel about it. Have this discussion without getting mad or making accusations.

    When you have a better idea of the situation, you can decide what to do next, such as setting new rules, punishments and possible treatment.

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  1. Abrad
    Aren't these just symptoms of adolescence?
  2. FrankenChrist
    I was thinking the same thing.

    I was thinking : If there is a strong correlation between the two, then is the drug use the cause or the effect of these symptoms?

    I was also thinking these symptoms can be used to describe lots of things.
    Some might say these are reasons to put a kid on ritalin or anti-depressants.
  3. the_last_straw
    I think drug abuse can amplify these problems but they certainly occur naturally on their own in adolescence.
  4. Goosh
    i was 8 when i first huffed hair mousse.I do not know what lead me to think it would be something at all, Maybe it smelled neat or something. But suddenly i was something or somewhere else. I would like to know where the impulse comes from. There is a Ted Talk out there called, Everything you ever knew about addiction is wrong, or something like that. and the speaker pinpoints isolation. I have always been an outcast. seriously, even my elementary school peers remember me as being "weird". not like i had behaviors or anything, just didn't "connect" with others...if you get it, you do, if you don't, come have a glass of water with me, you will understand soon enough. Keeping this post in one direction is probably more difficult for me than handling radioactive material is for HAZMAT pros. My mind is in constant "stream of consciousness mode" or Free association. i don't know if this is me or brain damage. I know that I am intelligent, but I am so scattered, even the gov recognizes me as having "faulty wiring" I don't want psychoactives in my life at all, in any form. Help?
  5. Lunaris Lynx
    When I was a freshman in high school a kid in one of my classes died from huffing freon. Huffing doesn't really sound like a big deal to kids until they are faced with the fact that it can - and does, have the potential to be deadly. At that age we just thought it was no big deal. After hearing about my classmate's death however it really opened our eyes.

    I'm not one for using scare tactics or exaggerations when it comes to drug education but I do think we need to present all of the facts - including the fact that these things can and do kill people. I know that death is hard to understand for some younger kids but I hear of kids using younger and younger so I think we should start supporting education for younger kids too. Give them the facts, answer any questions they have truthfully and always remain approachable. If they know they can come to an adult with a question and get an answer - not a lecture, they will be more likely to come to us when in need.
  6. TheBigBadWolf
    The above article to me shows the importance of the work we are doing here at DF, while institutions and givernments do nothing or react with their usual bigotry of forced abstinence,like:" if you don't get it on the outside we'll show you in jail"

    Lets keep on doing the good work and pat ourselves on our shoulders for being an asset to society.
      Lunaris Lynx likes this.
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