Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Cigarettes and Your Teenager

Cigarettes kill more Americans every year than alcohol, heroin, and cocaine, put together. This is why it is vitally important for you to help your teenager kick cigarettes, even though they are not as immediately lethal as cocaine,or heroin, for instance. But studies have shown - in adults, at least - that there is no harm in stopping cigarette use at the same time the addicted person is stopping alcohol or other drugs. That is, there is no truth to the idea that stressing the person by stopping cigarettes will prevent achieving abstinence from other drugs. If your teenager smokes, you must yourself stop, and get help if you cannot stop on your own. Your teenager can attend groups therapies, like Smokenders and Smokestoppers, run by local Lung Associations and other groups. There are numerous complementary treatments available, like hypnosis, acupuncture, and mediation which have some effect in helping smokers stop.Finally, medications like Chantix, Zyban, and Nicorrette Gum can also help. But whatever you do, make sure your teenager tries, and keeps trying to stop smoking. It's important.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sexual Addiction and Teenagers

With all the recent news about celebrities engaging in "sexting," extramarital affairs, and prostitution, one wonders about the sexual behavior of teenagers. How does a parent know when his teenager's behavior is dangerous or addictive in nature? While it is certainly normal for teenagers to experiment with sexuality, sexual behavior which is compulsive and/or destructive is certainly a problem, and should be addressed that way. I am not talking about whether or not your teenagers engages in sexual behavior, and at  what age,  or how many partners she has, or even what gender she is attracted to. You may have family values which necessitate rules about all these sorts of behavior, but they are not addiction. (Good luck enforcing those rules, by the way.) Sexual addiction, by contrast, is compulsive sexual behavior which is destructive to your teenagers and/or others.  For instance, posting pornographic images on oneself on the Internet is both illegal and can  be very harmful to one's future educational and job prospects. Trading sexual favors for money, drugs, or anything of value similarly suggests a dangerous precedent. Having multiple sexual partners, putting oneself in danger of becoming pregnant or contracting a sexually transmitted disease, or being raped, all constitute thoughtless and compulsive behavior, at the least. If yo see any of this, you will need to get your teenager to a therapist knowledgeable about teenagers and their sexual behavior, to sort out teenage experimentation from addictive behavior. No parent can handle this one alone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What's So Bad About Marijuana?

Marijuana use has been increasing amongst teenagers for the past two years: 38% of High School Seniors acknowledged having used marijuana over the past year, according to the annual Monitoring the Future Study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan. What exactly does this mean for your teenager? First, marijuana use is not so harmless as teenagers would have you believe. The profound effects on motivation, social relatedness, memory, and decision-making ability are unquestioned. And your teenager's brain is still developing, making him or her even more vulnerable to the noxious effects of marijuana and other drugs, including alcohol. So, when your teenager says that the marijuana use if "just for fun,:" and "natural," you need to refute the idea that the drug is harmless. But you will also temper your assessment with a real risk assessment: how is your teenager functioning in school? In relationships? Health?Given the understanding that marijuana remains illegal, how much legal jeopardy is he or she in? You will need to fashion a plan for helping your teenager move forward in life: for some teenagers addicted to marijuana, a stay at an inpatient treatment center is necessary. (And yes, you can get addicted to marijuana!) For other marijuana users, however, meeting with an addiction-knowledgeable therapist suffices. The most important thing is to find  out what exactly is happening with your marijuana-using teenager, and then respond to that, rather than the mere fact of marijuana use!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"Bath Salts" and Your Teenager

"Bath Salts" are packaged drugs sold under  innocent sounding names like "Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," Hurri9cane Charley," and "Aura." Although some of these packages have been found to contain mephedrone, a central nervous system stimulant, since there is so little oversight, the packages could in fact contain amphetamine, or sugar. (Or cyanide, for that matter.) These misleadingly labeled substances are sold in head shops, gas stations, and over the Internet.Stimulants can cause euphoria, high blood pressure, strove, and heart attack, and the DEA has named these substances "Drugs of Concern" in a prelude to making them illegal. ( http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/02/01/earlyshow/health/main7305536.shtml )Don't assume your teenager is treating herself to a bubblebath if you see these packages in your house!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Heroin and Teenagers

Over the last 10 years, the US  have been flooded with cheap, high quality heroin. The wide availability of this highly addictive drug has caused some teenagers to become addicted in numbers which would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Teenagers who see party drugs as marijuana, Ecstasy and alcohol, sometimes try heroin with the same casual attitude, not realizing its' highly addictive nature. Since the heroin available is so pure, teenagers can snort the drug, rather than having to inject it into their bodies with a needle, thereby lowering the bar to use. Some, but not all, teenagers progress to actually injecting the drug. Signs of heroin use include profound sedation( to the point of falling "asleep" into a plate of food), as well as pinpoint pupils and an overall silly mood.Overdose from heroin includes an unconsciousness from which you cannot arouse the person, can progress to death from paralysis of the breathing muscles, and necessitates an immediate call to 911. Withdrawal from heroin consists of a runny nose and eyes, goosebumps, muscle cramps, and diarrhea, and is the most common reason for return to heroin use. If your teenager is using or addicted to heroin, don't despair. Excellent treatments are available, and like all drug problems, your teenager can return to a healthy, gratifying life without substances. But you will have to help by getting him or her to professional help as soon as possible!.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Steroids and Teenagers

In our performance - obsessed culture, the use of performance enhancing drugs like Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (steroids) is all too common, among adults as well as teenagers. Teenagers most often get mixed up with steroids after reading about them on the Internet or taking advice from a "trainer" who foists these illegal and dangerous drugs on naive gym-goers. (No legitimate athletic trainer would recommend anything of the sort.) Many teenagers use steroids for bulking up and looking good for girls, rather than  for pure athletic performance. And teenagers often believe that if the dose they read about on the Internet is good, then double, or triple, that dose must be even better. If you see your teenager rapidly gaining weight or muscle, showing newfound aggression, or receiving packaged substances in the mail, you should take action by confronting him! The profoundly damaging effects of long-term steroid use on the adolescent body make it an absolute necessity for your teenager to avoid steroid use. However, DO NOT let your teenager stop these substances without guidance from a physician who can help - withdrawal can provoke or worsen suicidal thoughts. Bottom line, if you suspect your teenager is using steroids, get professional guidance immediately.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Caught My Teenager Drinking with Friends: Now What?

When asked, about a quarter of U.S. teenagers said they had participated in binge drinking (5 or more drinks in a row) in the previous two weeks.(http://monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2010.pdf) That being said, if you find out your teenager has been drinking, you should focus  on the harm, and potential harm, he or she faces. First, take two deep breaths. Then, use the incident as an opening to talk about the issue. Regardless of the immediate details, you now have an opportunity to address your teenager's choices about drugs and alcohol. Certainly you should find out if immediately dangerous behavior has occurred: is anyone drinking so much that they are intoxicated? Passed out? Is there a need for an ambulance right now? Also, ask about driving while drunk, including allowing a friend who is "less" intoxicated to drive. Ask about safety: - is your teenager putting herself in a vulnerable position because of her drinking? With these emergency concerns as the framework for a discussion, ask your teenager about what the effects of alcohol are, who is getting the alcohol, and where they are drinking. There is a big difference between a 12 year old drinking to intoxication, and an 18 year old having a beer at a family picnic. You can (and should) set rules and consequences which make sense in your family, with the full understanding that once your teenager leaves High School, there will be few effective bars on his or her ability to use alcohol. Plan for that time when your teenager will be on his or her own!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Teenagers and Oxycontin

Oxycontin and other opioid drugs (like Percodan, Vicodin, Morphine, and even heroin) can be taken orally, snorted, or injected. Teenagers can gain access to these drugs through their parents medicine cabinets, over the Internet, of from drug dealers. Effects of these drugs can be impaired thinking, profound lethargy, and even death from overdose. Withdrawal from these drugs - which often causes the user to return to drug use - can include insomnia, muscle crampimg, tearing eyes, a runny nose, and large pupils. If you suspect your teenager is using these sorts of drugs, ask about it! You will probably have to get your teenager drug-tested and under the care of an addiction specialist to detoxify him or her, and help avoid harmful drug use in the future.For more information about the use and abuse of opioid drugs, you can look at the Office of National Drug Control Policy's web page on Painkillers, at http://www.theantidrug.com/drug-information/otc-prescription-drug-abuse/prescription-drug-rx-abuse/painkillers.aspx.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Is My Teenager Abusing ADD Medications?

The stimulant medications(like Adderall and Ritalin) used to treat  Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD),can be very helpful for the young person appropriately prescribed the medication,  but they can also be used in an addictive manner. How can parents tell the difference? Most importantly, if your teenager has had a comprehensive diagnostic assessment and is carefully monitored, negative consequences from the stimulant medications are unlikely. Watch out  if he or she is getting the medication illicitly, snorting it, or experiencing negative side effects like anxiety, insomnia, tremors, and weight loss. A good treating psychiatrist  will make sure none of those side effects continue: the medication will be modified or discontinued. Interestingly, multiple research studies have shown that ADD sufferers appropriately prescribed stimulant medications are less likely to have addiction problems than ADD sufferers who are not prescribed stimulant medication. One article about this, "Substance abuse in patients with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder : therapeutic implications," can be found at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16097847
The bottom line with ADD and stimulant medications is the following: make sure  your teenager is getting comprehensive care and ongoing monitoring for the use of any medication,  but especially the stimulant medications used to treat ADD.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

My Kid is Smoking Pot!!!!

As a psychiatrist who treats drug-using teenagers, I can tell you that parents' reactions are extremely important in helping the teenager. Parents should neither over-react nor under-react when they find out that their teen is using marijuana or any other drug. Obviously, if your kid is putting himself in immediate danger, you need to do something immediate: if she is unarousable after drinking a lot of alcohol, for instance, you should call 911. But the more common circumstance is finding out that your teen is smoking pot, and has been for a while. The important things to find out are the following: is the marijuana use affecting my teen's schoolwork? Relationships? Physical health? Is there other drug or alcohol use going on? Is my teen putting him/herself in dangerous driving situations? Or making him/herself vulnerable to being sexually abused? Arrested? Is he/she aware of the long-term consequences of marijuana use? Is he/she aware of the legal consequences of illegal drug use? You can't make an informed assessment until you know the answers to those questions, and you and your teenager might be in need of professional help to get to the bottom of it.. It's not that I think marijuana use is a good idea for teenagers - it never is - but you will need to know if the marijuana use is an occasional goof, or a self-destructive pattern of behavior. Bottom line, you are better off starting a conversation about the issue, rather than screaming at your teenager....