Summer Means Plenty of Free Time
Summer is here and that means college students are back home and teenagers are out of school. I often find the free time and lack of adult supervision can lead to increased exposure to alcohol and drugs. The exposure to substances of abuse at this time of year makes it important for parents to be vigilant about warning signs of addiction in their children.
Indra Cidambi, M.D., founded the Center for Network Therapy(CNT), New Jersey’s first state-licensed Ambulatory (Outpatient) Detoxification care and treatment facility, and serves as its medical director. She works with patients addicted to substances such as alcohol, anesthetics, benzodiazepines, opiates, and suboxone. Before starting CNT’s Ambulatory Detoxification program, Cidambi was the director of detoxification and rehabilitation at Summit Oaks Hospital in Summit, New Jersey. She received her medical degree from Tashkent State Medical Institute in the former U.S.S.R and completed her residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. She is board-certified in general psychiatry and double board-certified in addiction medicine (ABAM, ABPN).
Editor: Nadeem Noor
With more than a decade of experience dealing with individuals suffering from substance abuse, I have found addiction issues most commonly start with experimentation with marijuana. This can start as early as age 13, so it’s never too early to become alert to signs and symptoms of substance abuse and discuss drugs and alcohol with your children. While we all know addiction changes a person, it may be often hard to spot as they creep up on you. There are five common changes brought on by substance abuse:
Change in Friends: As substances begin to take over your child’s life, it typically leads to a change in their usual group of friends. New ‘friends’ that affirm your child’s new lifestyle will become more present, while old friends, that perhaps refuse to engage in such activities, will fade. I believe adolescents often fall victim to drug and alcohol use as a way to deal with stress or in order to be “accepted” by a “cool group.” So it is important to talk to your kids every day to understand what is going on in their lives…helping them sort out feelings and fostering an environment where they turn to you first for help in solving a problem.
Change in Behavior: Substance abuse in young kids usually results in changes in social interactions, mood changes, problems with school work, increase in risky behavior, and mood swings. The changes in social interactions are very noticeable. If your extroverted child suddenly keeps more to himself and avoids eye contact it should be a concern. If he or she is sullen, irritable, or depressed, it could be a warning sign. Reckless driving, car accidents, or unexplained dents in the car could also point to a problem. Also, the deterioration of the child’s performance in school should be explored.
Change in Appearance: If you do a double-take when you notice your child has become shabby, chances are something is going on. If your child has become careless about his or her clothing, has an unkempt appearance, and has a perennially runny nose, you should think about having a conversation with your child. While it can be difficult to mentally accept the fact that your child is taking on the appearance of an addict, it is important to address changes, especially red or glassy eyes, unexplained marks on arms or legs (long sleeves in warm weather to hide marks), continuous scratching and picking of face and arms.
Change in Hobbies: If you find your child no longer enjoys his or her usual activities, it may be that he or she has become pre-occupied with obtaining and using drugs or alcohol, an all-consuming task. One sign you can look for is if hobbies they previously enjoyed – soccer, ice skating, dance, gymnastics, or martial arts – seem unimportant now. Instead of receiving mental and emotional stimulation from positive activities, they could be turning to drugs and alcohol to fill the void.
Change in Eating Habits: As the hand that feeds, parents tend to notice this effect of substance abuse quickly. Depending on the substance, your child can experience an array of new food habits, including binge eating, also known as the ‘munchies’, or a decrease in appetite. This swing in eating habits can have a negative effect on your child’s health and nutrition and should be addressed.