Just Because Drugs Are Legal Doesn’t Make It Okay to Abuse Them
The abuse of drugs, whether they are legal or not, can include:
- using drugs that were not prescribed to you
- using drugs in a different manner than the written or verbal direction of a doctor
- using drugs or alcohol outside of safe and healthy limits (such as binge drinking)
- using over the counter drugs in a manner not intended for its use
- using household items (such as inhalants or aerosols) as a means to experience an altered state
The dangers of legal drugs are real. Taking the time to educate yourself and your child is dyer, especially when there is an epidemic of drug abuse among teens. It’s important to be clear about what defines the abuse of drugs because teens often abuse drugs even though they are considered to be legal. For instance, the following drugs are all considered to be legal:
- synthetic marijuana
- bath salts
- over the counter drugs
- prescription drugs
- medical marijuana
Yet, these legal drugs can prove to be dangerous and even fatal when taken inappropriately. Even caffeine can be fatal, as it was for Logan Stiner, a healthy 18-year old wrestler from LaGrange, Ohio. He died in June of 2015 from an overdose of powdered caffeine. He was a senior in high school and a state-qualified wrestler. Stiner consumed a teaspoon of the powder before his death and tests reveal that he had a lethal amount in his system. Examiners believe that the young 18-year old was not aware that he had consumed a toxic amount.
Sadly, sometimes, teens believe that because a drug is legal it’s okay to experiment with and continue using. Yet, consider the thousands of teens who are hooked on prescription pain pills. In fact, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, prescription drug misuse by adolescents is second to marijuana and alcohol misuse. What’s worse is that if teens become addicted to prescription drugs and later have a hard time with feeding their addiction (no more prescriptions or money), they may turn to heroin. Since both are opiates, they can produce the same high. Another example of how teen drug abuse is changing.
As mentioned above, another danger is the misuse of over-the-counter-medications as a means for changing their mood or emotions. For instance, teens frequently abuse cough and cold medications. Certainly adolescence can bring a wide range of experiences, some that include emotions that are difficult to bear. When a teen is faced with anxiety, severe depression, or even psychosis, drugs is often a way to help manage their difficult experience without having to admit that they’re having trouble. Of course, this can be dangerous and even deadly for some teens.
Using substances as a means to manage one’s mood, feelings, or inner experience is called self-medicating. Parents should be aware of the behavioral and physical signs of alcohol and drug abuse. This could include drug and alcohol paraphernalia, hangovers, slurred speech, or other behaviors that indicate drug use.
If you’re a parent who is concerned about your teen’s inappropriate drug use, consider talking to your teen first. Fostering open communication goes a long way toward a healthy parent-adolescent relationship. However, if you feel that your child’s use of drugs is severe and you need outside help, contact a mental health professional as soon as possible to help with your teen’s substance abuse.