In looking at the problem of substance abuse there are two basic points of view; how adults view the problem and secondly, how adolescents view the problem. Clearly, to some adolescents there really is not a problem, but to adults the situation is one that runs from horror, to disbelief, to denial. No parent would ever wish that their child would end up addicted to any substance. Drugs are a part of our society that many people do not openly discuss. Because of this there are many things that we don’t know about drugs. Simply put, “It’s what we don’t know about drugs that’s killing our children.”
Drugs are a part of every life style, rich, poor, male, female, across all racial and ethnic groups and all walks of life. Drugs are everyone’s problem, good kids, athletes, married or divorced, urban or suburban. One of the consequences of substance abuse that affects everyone is crime. On the average, a burglary is committed every eight seconds in America.
Interestingly, a permit (or license) is required for just about everything in our society from driving a car to building a home, but none is required for having a child or being a parent. So how do you raise a child? This is the question that we all would like to know the answer to.
Parents deny outwardly that their child could ever be involved in any type of substance use. “Drugs are not my problem, I can control them, I can handle them, they can stop at any time.”
Drug use is a disease that has many symptoms but currently no cure. Drug use has both social symptoms (family, marriage, etc.) and physical symptoms (coughs etc.).
Drug use currently has four stages culminating in death. Other stages have different consequences some of which appear later in life. Let’s begin with stage one and go though the cycle.
this is where the person only uses drugs for convenience as long as there is someone around to supply them. This sets the stage for a period of denial of substance use by the user. At this level getting high is similar to Pavlov’s maze (reward and punishment). The user is hard to spot, usually only by accident.
the user is now actively seeking drugs. They feel so good now that they can’t wait until the next opportunity. They now plan their friends and life around drugs. This is the first step toward the disease where the user branches out from alcohol and marijuana to different types of pills. The adolescent still listens to and respects authority and still attends school. But they now experience isolation, mood swings, and lose sight of their future goals. They are now more controlled by drugs which are used for more than just fun, but still clearly not a problem in their mind. This leads to an internal conflict by the user of right verse wrong . (For substance usage in their mind and finally a need for more drugs.)
at this level getting high has become the most important thing in their life. Getting high is part of a daily regimen which now helps the adolescent cope with everyday life. The drugs used now are more potent and the user prefers to get high alone more than with friends. At this level there is a loss of interest in adults and school and the user no longer hides his use of drugs. The user looks (dresses) and acts the drug role. If needed he turns to crime and may now have his first brush with the law. Along with the mental symptoms of drug usage are also the physical symptoms, colds, cough, red eyes, sore throats and others which could lead to lung disease or bronchitis.
Needless to say the user’s relationship with his family decreases as well as his self esteem and worth. The user loses control of the drug which leads to thoughts of suicide and other suppressed feelings.
In desperation the user exhibits forms of bizarre behavior including sexual promiscuity, and group sex sometimes including homosexuality. The user often speaks and does these things freely as a last ditch signal for help.
this is the final stage, after this stage there is only death. Drug use is constant and the user has progressed though all the other stages. Drug use is not to feel good anymore but to feel and function “normal.” The use of drugs now progresses to intravenous use, because this is the most effective and direct as well as dangerous way to use drugs.
Physically the user coughs chronically and is very weak. At this point there is also a loss of memory. Girls often turn to prostitution to support their drug use. Drug addition is now a chronic disease.
These four stages attempt to sum up how parents view the problem of substance abuse. For a contrast an examination of the adolescent view point is offered.