Teens under the Influence : The Truth About Kids, Alcohol, and Other Drugs- How to Recognize the Problem and What to Do About It
Across the United States, in small towns and major cities, in suburbs and slums, in public and private schools, thousands of kids are experimenting with drugs. Many of them will become addicts; some will die. The first and only book to focus entirely on adolescent alcohol and other drug use, Teens Under the Influence addresses the immediate dangers that threaten these kids--exploring the short- and long-term effects of their addiction and giving parents solid, sensitive, practical advice to combat this growing epidemic.
Knowledge is the key to defeating drug addictions, and that is what this comprehensive, timely new book provides. Full of candid true stories from adolescent drug users, with facts based on the most recent scientific research, Teens Under the Influence tells you exactly what you need to know to deal with your child's problem, covering such important topics as
*The common myths and misconceptions about drug addiction
* The crucial differences between adult and adolescent dependency
* The reasons kids get hooked
* The stages of adolescent addiction
* The different kinds of drugs kids use and combine
* Various treatment options and how to choose the best treatment for your child
* Strategies for handling relapses
Teens Under the Influence offers practical help that may save your child's life. It may save the life of a friend. And it may save your own.
Ketcham (Under the Influence) and Pace, founding director of the American Council on Drug Education, present an honest and factual look at the problem of teenage substance abuse in this valuable parenting resource. Their compassionate approach should be highly valuable both to parents of children who are already abusing drugs and alcohol, and to those who want to prevent their kids from ever using. The book is painstaking and thorough, with a detailed chapter on each drug and how it works. The authors even explain what each drug's high is like (e.g., "cocaine increases brain levels of the feel-good chemical dopamine" and usually makes a user hyperactive, impulsive and talkative). The book's final section gives detailed instructions on how parents can intervene and walk their children through the rehabilitation process, including relapses.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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August 25, 2003
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Excerpt from Teens under the Influence by Katherine Ketcham
Why Kids Get Hooked
Fighting the stigma of alcohol and drug problems in youth presents us with a real challenge because there are really two pervasive stigmas--abusing alcohol and other drugs and being an adolescent.
Coupled with the stigma is our imperfect understanding of the reasons and mechanisms that lead to these problems. Substance-use disorders are truly complex and involve an interaction of biological and environmental forces. When we add in the influence of the family, peers, boredom, the natural risk-taking of adolescents, serious co-occurring emotional and behavioral disorders, and the sheer availability of alcohol and other drugs, we've clearly got a complicated situation on our hands.
On the other hand, this very complexity gives us more choices for early intervention and treatment tailored specifically to the individual adolescent's needs, and these innovative methods are showing more and more promise.
A seven-year-old friend of mine named Chandler put it best: "Kids need Health."
--David Lewis, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Community Health, Donald G. Millar Distinguished Professor of Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, and project director of the Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy
The Road Less Traveled
The only good is knowledge, and the only evil is ignorance
The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand.
Thomas is a tall, good-looking kid with a winning smile and a cocky attitude. Intelligent and articulate, he seems much older than his sixteen years.
In the last four years, Thomas has been arrested eleven times for assault, malicious mischief, reckless endangerment, minor-in-possession and minor-in-consumption charges, and various probation violations. This time he's locked up in the Juvenile Justice Detention Center for thirty days; it's the fourth time he's been in detention in the last seven months.
Thomas knows he has a problem with alcohol, but he isn't worried. He thinks he can quit whenever he wants.
"I just don't want to," he says with a confident smile. "Alcohol makes me feel good, you know, happy, crazy, full of myself. It gives me liquid courage--I feel like I can be and do anything."
He drinks, he says, for all sorts of reasons--to get high, to get numb, to get crazy with his friends, to forget about his troubles, to feel good, to feel better. "I don't always like myself when I'm sober," he admits, the cocky attitude disappearing for a moment. "But after a few six-packs, I feel much better about myself."
On what Thomas calls a "normal" night, he'll drink three forties (120 ounces of beer). On a party night, he'll drink a case of beer or more.
When he drinks, he does stupid things. He drives drunk, or he gets into cars with other drunk drivers. He has sex with girls he doesn't know and doesn't care about.
He doesn't use condoms when he's drunk because they're "too much trouble." He steals money and possessions from his friends and neighbors or he sells his own CDs, clothes, or PlayStation games to get money to buy more beer.
He gets belligerent when he drinks and often gets into fights with his friends or with strangers. "I get angry and aggressive," he admits. "People tell me I get 'that stupid look.' That's when I start arguing and fighting with everyone, even with my best friends.
"I think I'm so tough, you know," he adds with a sideways grin.
Thomas has blackouts ("lots of them") when he doesn't remember a single detail of the night before. He's frightened by the fact that he feels like he's in control when he's drinking but says and does things that show he's out of control. He's afraid he'll kill himself or someone else in a car wreck, get sent away to an institution, get a girl pregnant, or get AIDS from having unprotected sex.
But worse than the fear is the guilt and the shame.
"I feel ashamed because of the people I've hurt and the stupid things I've done and the way I've let my family down. I'm the outcast of the family. They don't trust me anymore," he admits.
Thomas is quiet for a few moments. "I thought loving someone meant that you forgive them and trust them, but maybe I've broken my parents' trust so often that they just can't believe me anymore. It's hard to live with yourself when you feel like you're letting everyone down, like you're a failure in everything you do. You know what I mean?"
* * *
Thomas is a troubled adolescent who uses drugs to have fun, to loosen his inhibitions, and to ease his emotional pain.
He is also an alcoholic. The signs and symptoms point to an early-stage addiction. First, there's the genetic evidence. Thomas's father is an alcoholic who has been in and out of treatment several times. Both his brother and his sister have a history of alcohol problems.
While Thomas's family history of alcoholism puts him at risk--scientific research conclusively shows that alcoholism is a genetically influenced disease--his drinking patterns also point to an early-stage addiction. He loves to drink ("I feel like I'm on top of the world after a few beers"), and he drinks whenever he has the opportunity. As hard as he tries, he can't stop after four or five beers--he keeps drinking until he gets drunk. He has a high tolerance for alcohol, putting away a case of beer or more in one evening. Always the life of the party, he's the person others turn to when everyone else is too drunk to drive.
Preoccupation with alcohol, continued drinking despite the desire to quit or cut down, and high tolerance are all early-stage symptoms of alcoholism. The symptoms are so subtle and seem so harmless, however, that they escape almost everyone's notice. "What's the big deal?" Thomas asks. "All my friends love to drink, none of them want to quit, and almost all of them have a high tolerance."
His parents admit that Thomas has problems, but they do not believe he is "addicted." His father refuses to acknowledge his own alcoholism, insisting that he isn't anything like "those bums who have no morals and no self-control." Both his mother and father think that Thomas drinks because he's a risk-taking adolescent with numerous behavioral, psychological, and social problems. They don't realize that Thomas's drinking is the primary cause of most of his problems.
After all, they reason, he could quit if he really wanted to, he doesn't drink all the time, he goes to school, and he gets decent grades. He's a good kid, down deep, they say, and he's trying hard to get his act together. He just has to work through his problems, get through the challenges of adolescence, and eventually he'll grow up, learn how to drink responsibly, and turn his life around.
Professionals (mental health counselors, educators, probation officers, doctors, clergy members) also focus exclusively on Thomas's emotional and behavioral problems, insisting that he needs to learn how to control his impulses and take responsibility for his actions. They believe his excessive drinking is merely a response to his multiple life problems, and that once these problems are addressed, he will be able to moderate his alcohol use.
During his freshman year in high school, the principal called Thomas into his office for a conference and warned him about the school's zero-tolerance policy. "If you cause any more problems here," the principal said, literally wagging his finger in Thomas's face, "you will be expelled, and you will not be welcomed back."
A mental health counselor diagnosed Thomas as clinically depressed and asked him if he had ever been suicidal. When Thomas admitted that he had thought about suicide, the counselor recommended antidepressant medication and long-term counseling to get at the root of his mental health problems. The counselor never thought to ask about his drinking.
In a recent juvenile court appearance, the judge said, "Young man, if you don't pull things together, I will have no choice but to institutionalize you." His lawyer agreed that sending Thomas to a juvenile institution might be the best course of action for everyone involved. "At least if he's locked up, he'll be safe from himself, and the community will be safe from him," the lawyer reasoned.
Thomas is angered by outsiders' interference in what he feels are "my personal problems." He insists he can handle his own problems, and he wishes everyone would just leave him alone. He's convinced he's not hooked on drugs--how could he be a drug addict when he's only sixteen years old? How could he be addicted when he doesn't drink in the morning or even every day?
Yet he is also afraid that something terrible is happening to him. He worries that he may have some kind of mental problem. Filled with shame and guilt, he detests himself for his inability to control his drinking. He knows what he should do to stay out of trouble, but he can't seem to do it. He listens to everyone's advice, but none of it makes any sense to him. He feels like a failure and a disgrace to his family.