LETTERS: There Are Ways To Talk To Your Teens About Drug And Alcohol Use

Monday, January 28, 2019 || LETTERS || OPINION || @maywoodnews

The fourth week in January is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. This is a good time to talk with your teen about drug and alcohol use and share your family’s values for prevention.

There are many resources in the community which can help with these issues. These include Youth Outreach Services (www.yos.org) and the behavioral health team at Loyola’s School-Based clinic located within Proviso East High School (www.loyolasbhc.org).

No one knows for sure how many teens in our community have tried tobacco, marijuana, alcohol or other drugs, but we know that substance use among teens is widespread.

The national Monitoring the Future Survey of High School Youth in 2018 reported that cigarette use is at its lowest point, but a third of teens have tried vaping in the last year. Vaping, using heavily marketed products such as Juul and e-cigarettes, is the newest way teens become addicted to nicotine products.

Marijuana use is also common among older teens nationwide. About a third of 12th graders report using marijuana in the last year and 6 percent use marijuana daily. Frequent marijuana use can be harmful to an adolescent’s developing brain.

Alcohol remains the most commonly used drug nationwide. Among 8th graders, 23 percent have tried alcohol while 40 percent of 10th graders and 58 percent of 12th graders report using alcohol in the last year.

The good news is that despite the opioid epidemic among adults, misuse of prescription drugs has dropped among 12th graders. However, leaving prescription painkillers in medicine cabinets or on the dresser where kids can have easy access poses a risk. Many people who become addicted to opioids began by using their own or a family member’s prescription drugs.

Parents need to be aware of signs of substance abuse so they can assist young people in getting help. Signs of substance use may include a middle or high school student behaving differently for no apparent reason — such as acting withdrawn, frequently tired or depressed, changing eating or sleeping patterns, changing grooming habits or becoming hostile and displaying poor relationships with family and friends.

Some teens may lose interest in school, stop doing their favorite activities, or start hanging out with a different peer group. Adriane Van Zwoll, LCSW, a social worker at Loyola’s clinic within Proviso East High School cautions, “These signs could also indicate depression or other emotional difficulties.  Anxiety, depression and substance use are often related.”

What can parents, teachers and concerned community members do to prevent substance use among young people in Maywood and surrounding communities?

First, be a role model of a healthy, drug-free lifestyle. Talk to your teen, even when it is uncomfortable. Research suggest that it is helpful to keep  communication channels open; encourage positive behaviors on a daily basis; negotiate emotional conflicts with teenagers so parents and teens can work together for a solution; set clear limits and make your expectations about drugs, tobacco and alcohol clear; and take the time to monitor your child’s behaviors.

 However, substance abuse can occur in any family. Use the resources in the school and community for help. If you suspect that your teenager is depressed or using drugs, contact your child’s health care provider, District 89 or District 209 school social worker.

Your child can be evaluated to see what help they may need. The School-Based Health Center, located within Proviso East High School, is a full service primary care clinic operated by Loyola University Chicago School of Nursing and is a resource for students in the school. It is open to all enrolled students free of charge.

In addition to getting immunizations, school and sports physicals or treatment for common diseases, adolescents complete a confidential risk assessment and depression screening. If they have emotional or substance use needs, students are referred directly to a behavioral health provider within the clinic.

Call (708) 449 9522 for more information about Loyola’s health services within the high school. To contact Youth Outreach Services, call 773 777 7112. For additional information about drug and alcohol facts and what you can do to prevent substance use, go to https://teens.drugabuse.gov/drug-facts. VFP

— Loyola School-based Health Center officials

Contact: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com | Facebook: @maywoodnews

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