As a parent, it is important to know the risks and consequences of pre-teen drug abuse. Pre-teen drug use puts your child at a higher risk for developing long-term complications that can impact their life. Since teens deal with many daily stressors, including familial, peers, and social media, they may also find themselves in social circles that revolve around smoking cigarettes, marijuana, or getting drunk.
Social media also influences how adolescents are exposed to drug use. Seeing other people enjoy drugs for its fun might provoke teens to use substances, too. Exploring one drug can act as a gateway to other substances out of curiosity. Exposure to such strong drugs at a young age can have consequences that can affect teens well beyond their adolescent years. Let’s look at the impact of pre-teen drug use to understand better what influences it and how to prevent it.
The Rise of Pre-teen Substance Use
Even with early prevention strategies like D.A.R.E., many elementary and middle schools are finding an increase in drug use with students.
Alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are the most commonly used substances among adolescents. Although middle school years are typically where drug use starts to become more prevalent, elementary students are starting to become the focal point of kids interacting with drugs.
Data has shown that:
- Alcohol is the most abused substance, showing that by the 12th grade, almost 60 percent of students have abused alcohol.
- According to the same study, roughly over 80 percent of students have reported using drugs during the school day.
Many people question why drug use is on the rise among adolescents. In addition to the current pandemic, many disruptions in teen’s life contribute to their drug use. With the loss of peer interaction, increased stress, and routine of going to school, many kids spend their free time exploring drugs to cope. It also includes a younger age group of kids, where drug use can be detrimental if not caught in time.
The Dangers of Drug Use for Pre-teens
The earlier and younger a person uses drugs and alcohol, the more they put themselves in danger of facing the potential consequences. There are three main areas affected by drugs and other substances.
#1. Development: Substances typically fit into three specific categories:
- Depressants or “downers” such as Xanax or alcohol slow down the brain and body, causing slower heart rate, decreased energy, and low body temperature.
- Stimulants or “uppers” such as cocaine or meth speed up the brain causing rapid heart rate, increased energy, and other physical symptoms.
- Hallucinogens impair the brain and body’s sense of reality, causing delusional thoughts and hallucinations. These forms of drugs can seriously impact the development of a teen’s brain.
#2. Physical: Heavy drug use and addiction take a huge toll on the body. The younger a person begins substance use, the longer they use it, the more it wears down the body. Each substance has different effects on a person.
Long-term effects of alcohol abuse include:
- Heart problems
- Liver damage
- Digestive problems
- “Beer belly”
Long-term effects of tobacco use:
- Damage to the lungs
- Heart disease
- Shortness of breath
Long-term effects of marijuana use:
- Poor memory
- Breathing problems
- Psychosis symptoms
- Mental health issues
#3. Behavioral: Pre-teens are already going through behavioral changes due to budding hormones and learning how to navigate the world. Combined with the early use of substances, behavioral changes can be dramatic, and consequences will follow.
Pre-teen drug use also trickles into teen drug use once they become dependent on the drug. Behavioral changes like anger, irritability, and impulsiveness can increase as they age. The recklessness that potentially follows can result in actions that can lead to legal issues. Many teens find themselves involved in risky behaviors such as D.U.I.’s or altercations with peers or other people.
What to Do if Your Pre-teen Is Using?
If you suspect your child is using substances, address the situation as soon as possible. As a parent, it can be easy to freak out knowing your child is using drugs, but try to remain as supportive as you can. Try not to approach it aggressively or harshly. Remember, conversation over confrontation is always the answer.
Instead, sit them down and have an open conversation about why they feel the need to use drugs and if any underlying issues are causing them to do so. If you believe that drug use has become a serious problem, reach out for help by contacting your pediatrician or pediatric mental health professional.
The earlier and longer a child begins drug use, the more serious the consequences rise for the quality of their life. At Clearfork Academy, our mission is to help male teens recover from substance abuse and mental health issues. We believe that it is never too late to start over in life and take control of your mind and body. Addiction and mental health disorders can be an aggressive cycle to break, which is why we believe you and your teen shouldn’t have to deal with ending substance use alone. Our highly trained professional staff are work to help your teen through the detox process as safely as possible with medical assistance if needed. If your teen requires treatment for their substance use or any other co-occurring disorder, get help today and take the first step to get your teen on the road to recovery. Find out more and reach out to us by calling (888) 966-8604.