Adolescence Alcohol Drugs

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1 Adolescence Alcohol Drugs What parents need to know order code DA065

2 The adolescent years have always been challenging for both parents and youth. This is a time when a young person develops his or her personal identity and increasingly looks to peers for support and validation. The goal of adolescence is to create a stable identity and become a complete and productive adult.

3 Adolescent Development (what is happening to my child!) Puberty marks the beginning of adolescence. Changes happen both physically and behaviorally during this stage of development. A lot of adolescent behaviours are related to adolescent biology. Add this biology to the environmental influences and the result can often be conflict with parents and other adults in their lives. During this time, youth may take more risks and may experience wide emotional swings. The goals of adolescence are to: become physically mature explore sexuality establish intimate relationships reach intellectual maturity learn to make responsible decisions become independent from his/her family reach economic independence develop a set of values The following outlines typical adolescent development. It is important to note that every person may not follow these stages in an exact manner. For instance, some people continue to function as adolescents well into their 20s, while others may be early developers and show signs of middle adolescence or greater maturity as early as 10 to 12 years old. Early Adolescence (10-12): Intellectually the early adolescent thinks of things in a concrete way. During this time the child still has black and white (all-or-none) thinking. Reaching conclusions by reasoning is not yet mastered; decisions are often made based on influences from others. Children in this stage have an improved ability to use speech to express themselves. They continue to be egocentric (think of the world in terms of how things affect me ) and are beginning to realize that their parents are not perfect. Emotionally they will struggle with their sense of identity, be moody, confused, try out new behaviours and bounce between being mature and childish. As family becomes less important, friends become more so, and youth may become less affectionate with their parents. 1

4 Physically they have begun puberty and may be awkward. Hormones are coming into play - testosterone (boys) or estrogen (girls). Middle Adolescence (12-16): Intellectually the middle adolescent begins to think in less concrete, and more abstract, ways. He or she develops the ability to think hypothetically, begins to think abstractly and can attack problems from a number of angles. They have also become introspective; they have the ability to self-reflect. Emotionally youth of this age continue to develop a sense of identity. They become close with, and trust, their peers. During this stage they clam-up and are somewhat secretive. You may find the middle adolescent to be talkative but not communicate details with you. Risktaking behaviours and sexual interests increase. Young people will explore their ability to attract a partner. Physically, during this stage of adolescence, more sleep is required. You may also see a change in sleeping patterns (up at night and sleeping in the day). Physical changes are now obvious; they look more like adults than children. Late Adolescence (17-19): Intellectually the late adolescent has usually developed abstract thought. They can think through ideas and can reflect on their personal experiences. They have an interest in moral reasoning. Emotionally the late adolescent is becoming more stable and has established a sense of identity. Conflicts with parents begin to decrease. Older adolescents show concern for others and the future. They may become less impulsive and think things through. Social and cultural values regain some of their importance. Family and peer relationships begin to balance. Serious intimate relationships may occur. These youth are ready to manage the transition to work or college/university and independent living. Physical and sexual changes are complete. 2

5 Facts about adolescence and substance use Individuals who go through puberty earlier have shown higher levels of substance use because they enter the middle adolescent stage sooner. This stage is associated with more risk-taking behaviours. Experimentation with alcohol and drugs may be a way to test out an adult behaviour. Not all substance use leads to substance abuse or dependency. Most young people who use substances will not progress to problem use or dependency; however, the earlier a young person begins using a drug, the greater the chance that he or she will run into difficulty as a result. As adolescents have not reached full maturity, substance use may interrupt important developmental processes. 24% of Canadian 16 year-olds drink alcohol almost ever weekend. Just 23% of Canadian 16 year-olds have never had a drink (Be Prepared to talk to your children about drinking, The Yukon Liquor Corp.). Peer behaviour influences an adolescent s own alcohol and drug use (Statistics Canada, 2004). Studies reveal that youth with a strong commitment to school performance are less likely to drink to intoxication than those youth with a weaker attachment (Statistics Canada, 2004). In Canada, the average age at which an adolescent tries alcohol for the first time is around the age of 13 (Statistics Canada, 2004). Many kids start becoming curious about substances even sooner. We need to help our kids distinguish fact from fiction. It s not too soon to begin having conversations. Children learn their attitudes about alcohol and other drugs from those around them, especially their parents. You need to speak openly to your children about alcohol and drugs and model responsible use if you want them to make responsible choices for themselves. 3

6 Parenting adolescents Provide love and support. Provide positive connections with family members and extended family members. Use age-appropriate discipline and set limits consistently. Strive for good parent-youth communication and a strong bond. Show a genuine interest in what they are doing, and get to know their friends. Monitor activities and set clear, consistent limits. Model positive responsible behaviour. Encourage good performance and responsible choices. Ensure that youth are using their free time constructively by involving them in activities and programs for youth such as sports, music, art, theatre, etc. Involve them in decisionmaking; ask for their opinion. Provide them with factual information about drugs, alcohol, sex and other difficult topics. Be a good listener; listen first in a non-judgmental way and then ask open-ended questions that will encourage conversation. Have rules, set healthy boundaries and follow through with consequences. Make time for yourself. Talk in advance about situations that may arise around alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Stay up until they return home from activities. Call friends parents to ensure there is supervision. Ask for a check in by phone when he or she is out. 4

7 Stages of Use (In Saskatchewan, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 19 to purchase/possess alcohol.) 1. Pre-use: This is the stage before an individual has tried any substances. It is important to have several conversations with your child about your rules and expectations around substance use. For more information on what information you should share with your child visit to view the publication entitled, So what do I say to my children about alcohol and drugs? 2. Experimentation: This is the stage of use when a person has made the decision to use a substance. Usually the person will begin by trying alcohol or cannabis. Typically this stage of use is for recreational purposes and is infrequent. Substances are usually obtained from, and used with, friends. 3. Early abuse: In this stage the person has a more established pattern of use and may be using more than one drug (alcohol is a drug). As well, the person has experienced some adverse consequences from their use. Simply using more does not, by itself, indicate dependency. 4. Abuse: In this stage the person s substance use has become regular and frequent and has been going on for an extended period of time. Several adverse consequences have occurred due to the substance use like missing school, poor grades, conflict with adults, etc. 5. Dependence: In this stage of use, the person continues to use substances regularly despite the negative consequences he or she is facing. There are signs that the person has developed a tolerance to the substances and requires greater quantities to feel high. The youth is preoccupied with using, and there is an increase in risk-taking and dangerous drug-related behaviours. (Sources: Health and Community Services,Government of Newfoundland and Labrador) 5

8 Some important facts:» Binge drinking (drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time) is more harmful to brain cells than any other pattern of drinking. When a person drinks to excess he or she may face many negative consequences. For example, binge drinking can result in an unwanted sexual encounter, fighting, injuries or a motor vehicle collision. Alcohol poisoning can lead to death.» Mixing alcohol and cannabis can be a deadly combination as marijuana blocks the body s ability to vomit. As a result, alcohol poisoning can occur more readily.» The content of illegal drugs is not regulated. A person does not know what they are buying. Many drugs (such as ecstasy and marijuana) may have added ingredients like crystal meth or crack cocaine.» The marijuana that is on the street today has a higher level of tetrahydrocannabinol THC (the psychoactive chemical) than in the past.» The most common date-rape drug is not Rohypnol it is alcohol. Although drugs are sometimes slipped into a victim s drink, sexual assaults happen more frequently after somebody has passed out, or drank too much (sexualityandu.ca).» Research conducted by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions/Students Against Driving Drunk) points out that teens whose parents are influential (talk with them regularly about important issues) are significantly less likely to drink and drive on prom night or to ride with someone who has been drinking. The research indicates that kids whose parents spend time with them and consistently communicate expectations about drinking, drug use and sex are overwhelmingly more likely to make good decisions about personal behavior.» If you need more information about alcohol and other drugs, visit and look for the fact sheets that are posted.

9 Alcohol Safety The very safest thing is not to drink alcohol. When young people do choose to drink there are things they can do to reduce risks. Here are some suggestions you may wish to share with your young people: Plan a safe ride home ahead of time as well as a back-up plan if the first one fails. Carry a taxi phone number and set aside taxi fare separate from other money (to ensure that it is saved for this purpose). Use the buddy system have a friend look out for you. Be aware of your surroundings. Let your family/friends know where you are going to be and how to contact you. Protect yourself; unprotected sex is a serious risk. Never leave your drink unattended, in order to avoid the possibility of other substances being placed in your drink without your consent. Know and set your limits. Don t accept drinks from someone you don t know. Plan and track how many drinks you have. Avoid mixing alcohol with other drugs; the results may be unpredictable and dangerous. 7

10 Alcohol Poisoning Know the signs of alcohol poisoning: passing out breathing less than 8 times per minute or irregular breathing (where breaths are not 10 seconds apart) cold, clammy, bluish skin vomiting without waking up seizures Know what to do: Stay with them. Roll them on their side to avoid choking. Don t put them to bed to sleep it off. Call 911. Youth are our future; we must all work together to provide them with the tools and information they need to make healthy choices! 8

11 Helpful websites: - Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, Healthy Living Website - Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission Parent Series - Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, Dealing with Issues Parents More/parents.htm - Thrive Canada - Health Canada, Healthy Living Children and Adolescents - British Columbia Healthy Adolescent Development

12 THIS RESOURCE IS PREPARED FOR PARENTS BY: The Alcohol and Drug Education and Prevention Directorate of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health

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