Every parent expects the best of their child. In a situation where drug/alcohol abuse has gotten out of control, how can you-the parent, pick up the signs and help your child through it? Mwereti Kanjo seeks advice from family expert Patrick Semphere.
Samuel (not his real name) started smoking and drinking when he was 10 years old and in primary school. It started off as experimenting and having fun with friends. After a few years, he had become a chain smoker.
While in high school, Samuel started experimenting with cocaine and sniffing glue. He says his drug use was merely to pass time because his parents provided him with everything he wanted and there were no problems at home. Luckily for him, while in Form 3, he got saved and managed to stop using the drugs, at least for a while.
â€œUnfortunately, it was not long before I relapsed. A year into my abstinence, I found myself at it again. This time, I can say it was out of frustration because I was under pressure with exams and I was going through personal issues. I needed something to take me into a different world.
â€œMy parents tried to help by shouting at me. But it just brought more frustrations. It was not until I was in the last year of college that I decided to stop taking any drugs because I knew no one would want to hire a junkie like me. I still drink but not to the level that I did in college,â€ said Samuel.
According to www.alcoholism.about.com, substance abuse can simply be defined as a pattern of harmful use of any substance for mood-altering purposes.
Substances such as inhalants and solvents can be abused for their mood-altering effects that are not drugs at all.
Scientists have given various explanations of why some individuals become involved with drugs and then escalate to abuse. One explanation points to a biological cause, such as having a family history of drug or alcohol abuse.
Family expert Patrick Semphere agrees with this and adds that socialisation outside the family may also increase risk of drug abuse. According to Semphere, signs to watch for in children include giving up past activities such as sports, homework, hanging out with new friends, declining academic performance, aggressiveness and irritability, significant change in mood or behaviour, forgetfulness, feeling rundown, hopeless, depressed, or even suicidal.
Other signs also include physical problems with unclear cause, for example, red eyes, slurred speech, avoiding friends and family in order to get drunk or high and taking risks.
â€œAbuse prevention efforts in schools and community settings should seek to increase communication between parents and their children, to teach resistance skills, and to provide information in order to correct childrenâ€™s misperceptions about cigarettes, alcohol, and drugs and the consequences of their use. We should also seek to develop, through education and the media, an environment of social disapproval from childrenâ€™s peers and families,â€ said Semphere.
It is also important for parents to remember that during this time, children need a friend-someone they can talk to and not someone who will condemn their every decision. Children need support and understanding. However, this does not mean letting them get away with it.