Drug and Alcohol - Use and Abuse

Why Do Kids Use Alcohol and Other Drugs?

Usually kids, like adults, choose alcohol and other drugs because others recommend and use them, and they see alcohol and drug use as a way to solve problems and fill unmet needs. Children see alcohol and other drugs glamorized by ads, TV, and films. We all have a need for respect, for being accepted by friends, for emotional well-being, and even for excitement. When these needs are not being met, people will take risks to fulfill them.

Alcohol and drug use may be attributed to a combination of the following reasons:

TO SEARCH FOR: fun, peer acceptance, self-confidence, identity, status, security, cultural identification, power, physical performance, risk, peace of mind, heightened sensory experience, mystical experience, or simply curiosity.

TO COPE WITH: problems with school or family, social problems, poverty, emotional or sexual problems, failure, communication problems, or boredom.

LACK OF KNOWLEDGE ABOUT: the effects of alcohol and other drugs, where to seek help with problems, how to say "no' and effectively defend the choice not to use them.

How Do Kids Get Drugs and Alcohol?

Young people can obtain drugs from the medicine cabinet or family alcohol supply, but more often, they get drugs from each other. Seldom are "pushers" found lurking behind bleachers selling drugs to innocent students. Starting with large illegal distributors, drugs finally arrive on the local scene and are disseminated in small quantities under casual circumstances. The average young person obtains drugs from a friend, older brother or sister, the kid around the corner, or an adult, even a parent. Alcoholic beverages, including beer and wine coolers, are easier to obtain than other drugs. We live in a drug-oriented society where we have been conditioned to think of drugs as the solution to many problems. It is impossible to isolate your child from exposure to these drugs.

How Can I Help My Children Avoid Drugs?

Our goal is to help our children refrain from ever using alcohol and other drugs. How might this goal be achieved?



The best age to begin educating your children about alcohol and other drugs is between 6 and 9 years of age. Get the most up-to-date information about drugs and pass them on to your children. Contact agencies listed here for further information that would be appropriate for your child.


1. PROMOTE SELF-ESTEEM: When children have a positive self-image, they are more likely to have the inner strength and self-respect to say "no" to peer pressure to use alcohol and other drugs. Some ways to enhance children's self-esteem are to give lots of "acceptance" messages; show your love. If children meet outside influences with a sense of self-confidence and self-awareness, coupled with strong family ties, they are likely to act in their own best interest.

2. LISTEN: Children will often talk about the significant situations in their lives if they feel it is safe to do so. Lectures and threats cut off many young people's attempts to establish a dialogue with adults about the issues that are of greatest concern to them.

3. SET A CLEAR FAMILY POLICY ABOUT CHEMICAL USE:Children want structure in their lives. They behave more responsibly when parents set clear and reasonable limits. Let your child know beforehand that under no circumstances is he/she to experiment with drugs; explain why this behavior is unacceptable and the consequences for not respecting this expectation.

4. BE A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL: Parents and people who are admired by children are often looked upon as role models. It is important to set a positive example by not abusing alcohol or other drugs, including over the counter drugs and/or prescription medications.

5. GUIDE YOUR CHILD'S ENVIRONMENT: Children get a lot of their ideas about drugs from ads, TV, and movies. Make sure your child understands that while drug users may be portrayed as being popular, in real life there are just as many popular children and adults who don't use drugs.

6. HAVE FUN TOGETHER: Playing together, working together, and sharing interesting and exciting experiences help develop mutual caring and respect within a family. Private time alone with your child is also important to encourage communication and sharing of confidences. A strong and loving parent-child relationship can help not only the child but also the parent through difficult situations.

How Can I Tell?

"Parents are usually the last to know..." Even though you may feel your child will never use alcohol or drugs, it is wise to be aware of some signs that may indicate alcohol or drug use. Many times, regardless of parents' best efforts, children do use alcohol or drugs. The key here is to become aware of alcohol or drug use in its early stages before it becomes harder to effectively intervene.

Occasional alcohol or other drug use is difficult to detect. It is important to note that some young people may have only some symptoms, and some will have none. Many of the symptoms could be present for reasons other than alcohol or drug involvement. However, there are some telltale signs which could be indicative of alcohol or other drug use. They include:

  • Finding drug paraphernalia or drugs
  • Liquor supplies of parents decrease or are altered
  • Prescription drugs of family members have disappeared
  • Burn marks on fingers or bruised inner arms
  • Red eyes
  • Loss of appetite - craving for sweets - weight loss
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Inexplicable mood changes - euphoria followed by tenseness and edginess
  • Estrangement from family
  • New friends, strange phone calls, secretiveness
  • Drop in school performance - not necessarily from A's to D's, but from A's to B's and C's
  • Caring less about school, sports, hobbies
  • Money or other valuables of family members are missing
  • Vague weekend "party" plans

One way to find out if your child is using alcohol or drugs is to ask him/her. It is important at this point to put aside anger and accusations so your child is not afraid to admit experimentation or other use. An honest answer is necessary in order to assess the level of drug use so that appropriate help may be obtained.

What Are the Stages of Drug Use?

AMPHETAMINES: (pep pills, speed, bennies, dexies, uppers) usually swallowed as pills, may also be sniffed or injected. Effects: hyperactivity; excitability; irritability; aggressiveness; anxiety; loss of appetite; psychological dependence; severe depression; nervous exhaustion; death by overdose.

CRANK: (methamphetamines, speed, mesh) usually inhaled or injected. Effects extreme stimulation, agitation, or energy; confusion; extreme depression; weight loss; acne-like symptoms; can lead to paranoia and thought disorders, bizarre behavior and hallucinations.

ICE: (crystal mesh, L.A. glass, hot ice, super ice, crystal, L.A. ice) - crystals are placed in a pipe and heated until it becomes a vapor which is inhaled. Ice in liquid form can be injected. Effects: intense depressive episodes and paranoia; possible convulsions; large increases in blood pressure; may cause lung, kidney, and liver damage; loss of appetite; insomnia; hyperactivity.

COCAINE: (coke, snow, flake, toot, nose candy, blow, lines, rails) - sniffed, swallowed, injected into veins or smoked in "free-base" form. Effects:euphoria; paranoia; irritability; mental confusion; depression; suicidal tendencies; increased tolerance may lead to larger doses to obtain initial effect; weight loss; insomnia; loss of motivation; ulceration's in nasal cavity; epileptic seizures; respiratory or cardiac arrest; death by overdose.

CRACK: (Hubba, superwhite, cloud 9, serpico) - tiny chunks or "rocks" of freebase cocaine that can be smoked. Effects: dangerously addictive; euphoria; irritability; insomnia; paranoia; may affect brain chemistry; death by overdose.

NICOTINE: smoked in cigarette form or chewed as chewing tobacco. Effects:increased pulse rate and blood pressure; loss of appetite and physical endurance; cancer of lung, mouth, throat, lips, esophagus, and bladder; psychological and physical dependence; chronic bronchitis and emphysema: narrowing or hardening of blood vessels; skin deterioration.

CAFFEINE: may be found in coffee and colas and over-the counter "pep-up" drugs. Effects: increased pulse rate and blood pressure; psychological dependence.

DEPRESSANTS - drugs that relax the central nervous system.

ALCOHOL: (booze, juice) - beer, wine, and distilled spirits. Effects: slowed responses; judgment and coordination impaired; uncontrolled behavior; organic damage to liver, muscles and bones, digestive tract, heart and brain; can lead to psychological and physical dependence; overdose can cause coma or death.

METHAQUALONE: (quaalude, ludes, soaper) - swallowed as pills. Effects:faulty judgment; drowsiness; convulsions; physical and psychological dependence; overdose may cause coma or death.

INHALANTS: (HUFFING), (include gasoline spray paints, rubber cements, solvents, correction fluid, nail polish remover, household aerosol products, amyl nitrite (RUSH) isobutyl nitrite (locker room), nitrous oxide) - vapors are inhaled or "huffed" Effects: headaches, runny nose and nosebleeds. nausea, loss of memory, loss of appetite, loss of coordination, altered perceptions and halation, mood swings, depression, permanent damage to the brain, liver, kidneys and peripheral nervous system, death.

What are inhalants? Inhalants are breathable chemicals that produce psychoactive (mind-altering) vapors. People do not usually think of inhalnats as drugs because most of them were nver meant to be used that way. They include solvents, aerosols, some anesthetics, and other chemicals. Examples are listed above. Aerosols that are used as inhalants include paints, cookware coating agents, hair sprays, and other spray products.

What is amyl nitrite? Amyl nitrite is a clear, yellowish liguid that is sold in a cloth-covered, sealed bulb. When the bulb is broken, it makes a snapping sound; thus they are nicknamed "snapper" or "poppers." Amyl nitrite is used for heart patients and for diagnostic purposes becasue it dilates the blood vessels and makes the heart beat faster.

What is butly nitrite? Butyl nitrite is packaged in small ottles and sold under a variety of names, such as "locker room" and "rush." It produces a "high" that lsts from a few seconds to several minutes. The immediate effects include decreased blood pressure, followed by an increased heart rate, flushed face and neck, dizziness and headache.

Who abuses inhalants? Young people, especially between the ages of 7 and 17, are more likely to abuse inhalants, in part because they are readily available and inexpensive.

How do inhalants work? Although different in makeup, nearly all of the abused inhalants produce effect similar to anesthetics, which act to slow down the body's functions. At low doses, users may feel slightly stimulated; at higher amount, they may feel less inhibited, less in control; at high doses , a user can lose consciousness.

What are the short-term effects of inhalants? Deep breathing of the vapors, or using a lot over a short period of time may result in losing touch with one's surrounding, a loss of self-control, violent behavior, unconsciousness, or death. Sniffing highly concentrated amounts of solvents or aerosol sprays can produce heart failure and instant death.

What are the long-term dangers? Long-term use can cause weight loss, fatigue, electrolyte (salt) imbalances, and muscle fatigue. Repeated sniffing of concentrated vapors over a number of years can cause permanent damage to the nervous system.

What hapens when inhalants are used along with other drugs? As in all drug use, taking more than one drug at a time multiplies the risks.

STEROIDS - These are used to build strength and enhance athlete's performance Many athletes consider steroids to be less dangerous than other chemicals and don't believe they can become dependent on steroids. Coaches and trainers sometimes inadvertently encourage steroid use by rewarding athletes who have used them. Effects: Increased strength and muscle mass, mood swings, aggressive behavior, violent behavior, depression, anti-ethical effects on sexual development, permanent psychological damage.

HALLUCINOGENS - drugs that affect the mind, causing distortions in physical senses and mental reactions.

MARIJUANA: (pot, grass, weed) and HASHISH (hash) - smoked in cigarettes or through a water pipe; can also be taken orally. Effects: increased heart rate; reddening of eyes; dryness in mouth and throat; altered perceptions; reduced coordination and concentration; impaired short-term memory; impaired reaction time; distortion of time and distance; prolonged use may damage lungs; affect sex hormone levels and lead to psychological dependence. Although effects are felt within minutes, reaching peaks in 10-30 minutes, remains of the drug are stored in the body from one day to two months, depending on the frequency and consistency of use.

LSD (acid), MESCALINE (peyote), PSILOCYBIN (magic mushrooms) LSD - is swallowed as pills, injected or absorbed by placing on the tongue; Mescaline and psilocybin are taken orally. Effects: unpredictability; increased pulse rate and blood pressure; chills; nausea; irregular breathing; sensory hallucinations; paranoia; violent and bizarre behavior; disorientation as to time, place, companions: flashbacks: death by overdose.

NARCOTICS - group of drugs which come from the opium poppy or are chemically synthesized.

HEROIN: (H, horse, smack, white stuff, hard stuff, scag) - a white off-white, or brown powder which may be cooked into a solution then injected into a vein or the skin; also taken orally or sniffed. Effects: restlessness; nausea, vomiting, highly addictive; mental and physical deterioration; withdrawal causes symptoms that resemble severe influenza: death by overdose.

DESIGNER DRUGS - more potent and more toxic synthetic substances created to mimic effects of illicit drugs.

MDMA: (ecstasy) - a hallucinogenic amphetamine swallowed as pills. Effects:nausea; muscle tension; blurred vision
unpredictability; may cause prolonged coma; brain damage; acute paranoia, death by overdose.

DATE RAPE DRUG: Rohypnol (roofies, ropes, ropies) commonly known as the "Date Rape Drug." Illegal in the Untied State, commonly smuggled into the United states from Mexico or Colombia. Rohypnolis a brand name for the sedative benzodiazepine drug Flunitrazepam. Pohypnol is reputed to be ten times more potent than Valium. Rohypnol causes loss of memory, which is why it is also known as the "Date Rape Drug." Manufactured in "1" and "2" milligram tablets that are round and white, with a single score on one side and "ROCHE" and the number 1 or 2 encircled on the other side. Commonly dissolved in water.