Drug risk factors in children

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Drug risk factors in children

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If a child has one or more risk factors, there is a lot we can do to mitigate them. And that´s our job as parents. The first one is to understand that if there is a genetic component or possibly or probably a genetic component because there is addiction in our family, we have to understand that they are way, way more vulnerable. And so, even early years, even experimentation is going to be more dangerous for a child like that, so we really have to pay attention. And if there are signs that a kid is using, we want to intervene right away. But the other way we mitigate risk factors is to understand why kids use drugs. We have this idea that they use drugs because it is fun. They want to get high because their friends are using. But the research shows that the number one reason kids use drugs is because of stress, so whether that is stress from a family situation or whether it is stress in school because there is too much pressure for them to excel, whether it is stress that they are living in a neighborhood where it is dangerous, whether it is stress because they have a psychological disorder and they are trying to function in the world even though they have depression or they are trying to function in school and they have a learning disability, what we want to do is as soon as we see that there are signs of a problem to get help. I mean we are parents. We are not expected to be able to know everything and certainly not expected to know how to deal with these problems. And so, if we suspect that there is a problem. Does our child have depression? Does it seem like they are sad a lot? Are they isolated a lot? Maybe it is okay. Some kids are like that. Some kids are more reserved. Some kids are less likely to be social and want to be social. But we want to find out, so that´s why we bring them in to see a doctor, to see a psychiatrist, or a pediatrician, somebody who can help figure out if there is a problem. So if there is family problems, what do we do? We want to go to family therapy. We want family counseling right away because we want to unravel the situation that is going to increase the stress on our child. If the child has the potential of a psychological disorder, we want to get them in to see a doctor to figure it out. We want to stop these things and nip them in the bud before they escalate because a kid who is struggling is more likely to use. And it makes sense. You get high and some of that stress goes away. Many of us come home at the end of long, stressful day and the first thing we say is I need a drink. Why? Because it does help us deal with our stress, and so if you are a child and if you are dealing with a school situation and there is bullying going on, there is cyberbullying, there is just stress from school. You are sitting in a classroom. A child with learning disabilities sitting in a classroom and just not taking in what´s going on and feels overwhelmed, it makes sense that a child like that who ends up getting high for the first time is all of a sudden going to feel this enormous relief. Some of that anxiety and that worry goes away, so it is much more likely they are going to continue using. So that´s the time as soon as we understand there might be a problem is to get help.

Learn about: Drug risk factors in children from David Sheff,...

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David Sheff

Writer

David Sheff is the author of Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy, the follow-up to his New York Times #1 bestseller, Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s AddictionClean is the result of the years Sheff spent investigating the disease of addiction and America’s drug problem, which he sees as the greatest public-health challenge of our time.

Beautiful Boy was based on Sheff’s article, “My Addicted Son,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine and won an award from the American Psychological Association for “outstanding contribution to the understanding of addiction.”  It was named the nonfiction book of the year by Entertainment Weekly.  

Named to the Time 100, Time Magazine’s list of the World’s Most Influential People, Sheff also won the 2013 College of Problems on Drug Dependence Media Award. Sanjay Gupta, MD, said, "As a clear-eyed chronicler of addiction, David is without peer.”

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