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Drug problems happen when people use drugs in a way that harms them or causes them to harm others. People can misuse illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.
Most of the time, a drug problem starts with casual use. You or your teen may not think there will be a problem if the drug is used once or twice. But drug use can become a drug problem and dependency, and it sometimes happens quickly.
Drugs change the brain's structure and how it works. Teens who continue to use drugs may develop a strong need, or craving, for the drug, and it may get harder to say "no" to drug use. Your teen may start to find drugs more fun than anything else. Or your teen may want to stop using drugs but can't. He or she may become dependent on a drug.
If your teen becomes dependent, the drug controls his or her life. Your teen may continue to use the drug even though it can harm relationships, lead to trouble with the law, and/or cause physical problems.
Teens may use drugs for many reasons. They may want to:
Drug use affects the brain and causes change in your teen's alertness, perception, movement, judgment, and attention. These changes may make your teen more likely to:
You may worry that your teen is using drugs if he or she becomes withdrawn or negative. But remember that these behaviours are common for teens. Do not accuse your teen unfairly. Try to discover why your teen's behaviour has changed by telling him or her that you are concerned.
Look for a pattern or a number of changes. Your teen may have a drug problem if he or she:
You can teach your teen these ways to say "no" if he or she is offered drugs.
Treatment for drug problems or dependency usually includes group therapy, one or more types of counselling, and drug education. Sometimes medicines are used to help a teen quit. Teens who are dependent on drugs may need medical treatment and may need to stay in a hospital or treatment centre.
Treatment focuses on more than drugs. It also helps your teen cope with the anger, frustration, sadness, and disappointment that often happen when a person tries to stop using drugs.
Treatment also looks at other parts of your teen's life, like relationships with friends and family, school and work, medical problems, and living situation. It helps you and your teen find and manage problems. Treatment helps your teen take control of life so that he or she doesn't have to depend on drugs.
A drug problem affects the whole family. Family counselling often is part of treatment.
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Current as of: February 11, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health
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