Most parents will tell you that kids grow up way too fast, and in today’s culture, it seems to happen at an even more accelerated pace. It used to be that you didn’t think you really had much in the way of concerns till your child hit their teenage years, but recent trends have found that your concerns should possibly start much earlier. Children as young as 12 are now beginning to as use drugs such as inhalants, marijuana and abuse prescription and over-the-counter drugs, such as cough syrup.
According to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 3.5% of kids aged 12-13 have used illicit drugs. By age 14, the number skyrockets to 8.5% and more than doubles again from ages 16-17 to 16.6%.
These numbers show that children barely old enough to sit in the front seat could be exposed to and at risk for experimenting with drugs. Furthermore, these children could suffer longer lasting effects, as their bodies and brains are still in very early stages of adolescent development. Don’t be caught being naïve that because their toys are still in the closet, that you have no reason to be on alert.
Abuse by younger-aged children can often come with warning signs that go beyond the normal signs you would associate with drug abuse. Where the difficulty comes can be determining what can be chalked up to good ol’ puberty, and what is a real concern.
Your child’s personality changes. Yes, raging hormones can cause all sorts of shifts in behavior in the preteen and early teen years, but trust your gut when it feels different. Secretive behavior increases. Sharing secrets can be part of childhood, but when you notice that answers to direct questions become very indirect, they are spending a lot of time withdrawn from the family, and you really can’t definitively answer what they have done on an average day, you need to investigate further. Interests change almost overnight. Sadly, the innocent princess stage and toy trucks can’t last forever and moving on is a good thing as they develop. However, if they suddenly lose interest in something they had previously had great interest in, there could be a major problem.
Even if your child is not using drugs (and let’s hope that is the case!), these signs should not be overlooked as your child may be struggling with other issues that can be equally as harmful, or lead to risky behavior such as drug use. Set your child on the right foot for their teenage years, which will set them on a great path for life!