It is important for parents to communicate with their children as they enter their teenage years. This is a time in their lives when kids could start to experiment with mood-altering substances such as alcohol and drugs. It is also a time when children are inclined to care more about what their peers think than what their parents think.
Even those who spend a lot of time talking with their children about the dangers of substances such as drugs and alcohol can miss the early warning signs. The reality is that you cannot be with your kids twenty-four hours a day, and some children will succumb to peer pressure.
A new report has found that over the past two years, almost five hundred children from the Tayside area have been admitted to A & E departments for drug- and alcohol-related incidents. Alcohol misuse accounted for the majority of admissions, with 393 children under the age of seventeen admitted for alcohol-related incidents. The figure for drug-related incidents was eighty-one.
Shockingly, twenty-two children under the age of four have been to A & E for alcohol-related incidents between 2014 and 2016. Dundee councillor Ken Lynn said, “My understanding is that examples of youths attending A & E for alcohol and drug issues are coming down long-term. The number of examples is not to be welcomed, but that number has reduced from years previous, which is a good thing.”
Between 2014 and 2016, eleven children between the age of five and nine were taken to A & E for alcohol misuse, but the highest figure was for children between the ages of fifteen and seventeen; that number was 282 for the two-year period.
Addaction service manager for Dundee, Dave Barrie said, “Any young person needing treatment for substance misuse is concerning. It shows that there is still a lot of work to do within the communities around the city. Drug and alcohol abuse is a serious issue, and the safety and wellbeing of our young people is priority number one.”
Are You Worried?
If you are worried about your child dabbling with alcohol and drugs, there are a number of signs to be on the lookout for. Children who get caught up with these substances tend to act in a specific way, and many will begin spending more and more time alone in their bedrooms, away from the rest of the family. This is particularly concerning if the child previously spent a lot of time mingling with other family members.
Parents may find that a child who was once quite open about their life becomes reluctant to talk and share information. Another sign to look out for is a sudden drop in performance or behaviour at school. Likewise, you may notice that your child has stopped taking an interest in his or her physical appearance, hygiene or grooming.
The above signs do not always indicate a problem with alcohol or drugs; unfortunately, they could indicate another problem such as bullying, but the signs could also just be the result of changing hormones. However, some signs cannot be ignored. If you find any drug paraphernalia or empty alcohol bottles hidden in your child’s room, you must take immediate action. You may also notice signs of intoxication such as slurred speech, confusion, poor coordination or vomiting. Signs like these leave little room for doubt, and they need to be addressed as soon as possible.
Most children who experiment with alcohol or drugs will be perfectly fine, but there are some for whom these substances will become a major problem. Those who continue to abuse mood-altering substances are in danger of becoming addicted. It is essential that as parents, you are on the lookout for the signs of substance abuse so that you can tackle it before it becomes a serious issue.