World Health Organization defines drug addiction as follows:

“Drug addiction is the state of periodic or chronic intoxication detrimental to the individual and to society, produced by the repeated consumption of a drug (natural or synthetic). Its characteristics include (1) an overpowering desire or need (compulsion) to continue taking the drug and to obtain it by any means (2) a tendency to increase the dosage, and (3) a psychic (psychological) and sometimes physical dependence on the effects of the drug.”

This is emerging as a challenge that requires immediate attention and policy intervention from Indian government.  Young generation is the premise to build future of the nation and if current generation is deeply immersed with such addiction, nation will be deprived of productive human resources in the future.

Teens who abuse drugs may have a greater risk of developing an addiction when they grow adults. Drugs have a more drastic effect on children and teens than on adults because the brain continues to develop until about age 20. In young age alcohol and other drugs disrupt brain development. They negatively affect a person’s memory and ability to respond to stimuli and to respond to stressful situations.

Anyone who tries a drug initially never plans to become addicted. Just because a teen has tried drugs or alcohol doesn’t mean he/she will become an addict. There is difference between drug abuse and addiction. Addiction occurs when frequent usage of drugs effects brain functions over time. The transition from voluntary to compulsive drug use reflects changes in the brain’s natural inhibition and reward centers that keep a person from exerting control over the impulse to use drugs. Developing brains are also more prone to addiction. Teenager’s brain adapt more quickly to repeated drug use, leading to cravings and dependence.

There is no single reason why teenagers use drugs or alcohol. But here are some of the core issues and influences behind the behaviour of teenage drug and alcohol use.

Curiosity: Many teens begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol simply because they are curious and want to know what it feels like. Even if they know that drugs are bad, they don’t believe that anything bad can actually happen to them.

Peer Pressure: Peers are most influential at this stage of life. Many teens use drugs “because others are doing it”—or they think others are doing it—and they fear not being accepted in a social circle that includes drug-using peers.

Having Fun :  Past studies used to point to “having fun” as the number-one reason teens using drugs. It’s fun getting drunk or high with friends, sharing an intensely pleasurable drug-induced euphoria. Teens don’t get addicted to substance but they get addicted to the mood that the substance brings. Abused drugs interact with the neurochemistry of the brain to produce feelings of pleasure. The intensity of this euphoria differs by the type of drug and how it is used.

Lack of Confidence/ Low Self-Esteem:  A study reported that most of the teens say that they use drugs to “feel cool.” Teens’ self-worth depends on the approval of others, and their desire for social acceptance can drive them to engage in destructive behaviors, even if they know it could harm them. Teens who have low self-esteem are more likely to seek acceptance from the wrong crowd by using drugs.

Stress: Some teens turn to drugs and alcohol as a form of escapism. Many teenagers are overly stressed with a packed schedule of advanced classes and extracurricular activities. A lack of coping skills can lead them to seek an artificial method of coping with stress.  When they feel stressed or pressurized they see these substances as a way to forget existing problems and feel happier.

Misinformation: Studies show that teens are widely misinformed about the risk/dangers attached to drugs abuse. Teens who perceive little risk in using drugs are more likely to use drugs. Teens need to be educated by parents and teachers about the specific risks of drugs.

If you are concerned that your teen might be using drugs, here are some common warning signs to watch for.

Behavioural Changes:

  • Decreased interest in activities and hobbies.
  • Isolating themselves from friends or family.
  • Acting secretive.
  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Changing friends or social circles.
  • Extreme highs and lows
  • Slurred or rapid-fire speech.
  • Unusual tiredness 

    Physical Changes:

  • Bloodshot Eyes.
  • Poor hygiene
  • Smell of smoke on breath or clothes
  • Excessive thirst or hunger
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Coordination problems
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shakes or tremors
  • Pinpoint pupils

The most common drugs abused by teens aren’t much different from those of adults. But the reasons for abuse may be different as teens often abuse a substance based on its accessibility. Teens are also more likely to take excessive amounts of drugs and alcohol because of how they perceive the risks and dangers.

Alcohal: Intake in liquid state e.g  Beer, Whisky, Rum, Vodka

Marijuana: Also called weed, pot, grass, ganja and many more other slang names. It’s get consumed by smoking and vaporizing

Prescriptions and Over-the-counter Medications: Pills, Capsules, Injections, Syrups

Smack (Heroine): is a white or brown. It can be mixed with water and injected with a needle. Heroin can also be smoked or snorted up the nose. Also called Snow, White lady, Horse, H, Eagle, Chitta, Brown Sugar, Mud

Recognition and prevention of drug use can end an emerging problem before it starts. Parents can play an important role in keeping their kids away from this curse.

Strong Bond: Have a strong bond with your child. Teens who have healthy relationships with their parents may be more likely to discuss their encounters with drugs.

  • Having at least one meal a day with the entire family present
  • Making time to talk with teenagers regularly to check in with their feelings, activities and behaviours
  • Getting to know a teenager’s friends and their parents
  • Communicating with teachers and school counselors on an ongoing basis
  • Participating in community activities that keep schools and neighborhoods safe for teenagers
  • Attending your teen’s school activities and showing support for her interests
  • Letting your teenager know every day that you love him and care about his future

Teach Your Teen How to Say No to Friends: Friends are important. Teens trust their friends, and they seek their approval. However, children need to know how to resist peer pressure and make their own decisions. If a friend offers alcohol or drugs, your child must understand the power of saying no. When surrounded by friends who avoid drugs and alcohol, saying no becomes easier. Encourage your teen to hang out with friends who choose not to use alcohol and other drugs.

Discuss Risk involved in Substance abuse: Being involved in your teen’s life is one of the best ways to prevent substance abuse. Having open and honest discussions about the dangers of drinking, drug use and peer pressure can make a huge difference. Parents who do not want their kids getting drunk and using drugs should begin by sending a strong message to their children about the importance of avoiding drugs and alcohol.

Be a Role Model: One of the most important ways parents influence their children is by being positive role models. Teens mimic what they see. That means parents should keep alcohol and other drugs away from the home. If you drink in front of your children, do so in moderation and explain why it’s important for kids to abstain from alcohol until their brains are fully developed.

Engage them in Physical & other recreational activities: Keep them busy in sports, art, music, dance or any other activity they want to pursue in life. People those who pursue their hobbies have lesser chance to get addicted.

Key Points:

  • Many teens experiment with drugs, but aren’t addicted.
  • No one who tries a drug; plan to become addicted.
  • Some people can have one drink or one hit and stop. It’s not as easy for others — especially those who have a family history of addiction.
  • Teens don’t get addicted to substance they get addicted to the mood that the substance brings.
  • Teens who perceive little risk in using drugs are more likely to use drugs.
  • Many shy teenagers who lack confidence report that they’ll do things under the influence of alcohol or drugs that they might not otherwise.
  • Recognition and prevention of drug use can end an emerging problem before it starts.
  • The most common drugs abused by teens aren’t much different from those of adults. But the reasons for abuse may be different as teens often abuse a substance based on its accessibility

“Let’s raise children who don’t have to recover from mistakes of childhood in their youth”

Manish Sharma

Parenting Coach

Parents usually understand the need of praising child. But most of them don’t have much idea about the effective manner, timing and frequency of praising child. Studies and literature also have different opinion about this. Some experts recommend that we shall praise freely and lavishly, on the other hand few warn not to overdo the applause.

Both of the opinions seem correct as experts have strong premise to prove their argument.

First set of experts says it’s very important to praise children as it;

  • encourages them to improve
  • keeps them motivated
  • boosts their self esteem and confidence
  • helps get right behaviour repeated

Second set of experts warn not to praise too much because;

  • child will find it difficult to judge his/her work accurately
  • the more praise children receive, the more they rely on adult evaluations instead of forming their own judgments
  • they afraid to take risks and try new things for fear of not always being on top.
  • it can also lead to some children becoming overconfident
  • There is a great debate among experts about the effects of praise on children. This debate is not about praising or not praising rather difference of opinion is because of way of praise and amount of praise.

So let’s discuss five key points which will help us to draw a balanced approach.

1. Be Specific when Praising

Praise is much more than only saying “Good Boy” or “Good Girl”, be specific about what the praise is for. When you are not specific, they have a hard time understanding exactly what it is they have done well. Instead of saying “Wow, you did a great art work” say “Your choice of red & yellow colour has made this work great”

This way your child will also get to know that you are noticing his/her work, and will encourages him/her to do more.

2. Praise the efforts not only results

You can always point out improvement no matter how small e.g. “You really have picked up on your reading…Appreciate”. Highlight their effort “I can see you really tried hard to get it right”

If you are looking for improvement then you need to praise the efforts and don’t need to wait for results to praise. Praising efforts can encourage your child to try hard in the future.

3. Praise must be genuine and sincere

Keep it real: Don’t say, “Good job!” when it’s not. Even young kids can see right through false praise. Praise should reflect the amount of effort the child put in. Earned praise reinforces your child’s effort and is encouraging.

4. Praise the process/behaviour rather than the Child

“You’re such a good player” or “You have such a beautiful singing voice.” Be careful with this kind of praise which tends to focus on their inborn strengths/abilities. If he believes he arrived prepackaged with certain abilities, he might think he doesn’t need to improve in those areas.

It’s better to focus on process. In Process-based praise emphasize on what he can control, such as how much time he spends on a project or which strategies he uses.

“I am so impressed at how hard you worked on your science project” is more empowering than “Wow, you’re good at science !”

5. Accentuate the Positive

Respond to wanted behaviors of your child more than you punish unwanted behaviors. The key to getting great results is to pay attention to “what’s going right” rather than “what’s going wrong”

Try to eliminate constant negativity around and put the focus on all the wonderful, positive things your children are doing instead. Catch them doing right things and appreciate them immediately.

Praising your child is an art and you can master it by practicing above stated five points.

Happy Parenting !!

Manish Sharma

Parenting Coach