Physical Problems

Teen Drug Abuse

Teen drug abuse has been declining in the United States for the last decade, but several drugs remain a dangerous problem for many teens. Parents and other adults should know the signs of teen drug abuse so they can get help for teens who have a problem with drug use and abuse.

By the time they reach their teens, many young people already know someone who uses drugs. Some kids feel pressure to use drugs like alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana as early as 3rd grade. More kids are introduced to drugs during adolescence, or the junior high or middle school years. The percentage teen drug abuse increases through the high school years and into young adulthood.

  • Over 30 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade 66 percent of teens have used alcohol.
  • Teen Smoking: 3 percent of 8th graders smoke tobacco.
  • About 10 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 25 percent of 10th graders and over 30 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana.
  • 10 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs. On average, 2,500 teens abuse a prescription drug for the first time every day. 

Since these teen drug abuse statistics were posted, new statistics were released for the year 2012. See how the 2012 statistics compare:

  • 3.6 percent of 8th graders have used alcohol, and by 12th grade only 28.1 percent of teens have reported getting drunk in the last month.
  • Teen Smoking: In 1996, 49% of 8th graders tried cigarettes, by 2012 only 16% had done so,  However, teen smoking of flavored cigars and Hookahs has significantly increased.
  • About 6.5 percent of 8th graders have used marijuana. About 17 percent of 10th graders and over 22.9 percent of 12th graders have used marijuana in the last month.
  • 14.8 percent of teens in 12th grade have abused prescription drugs.

The use of most drugs among teens is declining. In the last decade these numbers have gone down from almost 47 percent of 8th graders using alcohol, 10 percent smoking cigarettes, and about 12 percent using marijuana. Cocaine use declined in the 1990s from its peak in the 1980s, but it has remained steady since that time. Still, about a quarter of students say that drugs are available to them at school.

The exception to the downward or steady trend of drug use among teens is the teen prescription drug abuse, especially prescription painkillers, which has been rising in recent years. In the last decade treatment for teen prescription drug addiction has increased 300 percent. Many teens have a misperception about prescription drugs, believing that they are safe because they can be obtained legally. Prescription drugs are easy to get from medicine cabinets at home or at family or friends’ houses, meaning that many teens can abuse prescription drugs for free. Also, parents sometimes give their children another family member’s prescription painkillers without realizing the potential dangerous side effects and addiction that can occur.

Teen Drug Use Statistics show the most common drugs abused by teens are, in descending order:

  • Alcohol Abuse
  • Marijuana
  • Prescription drugs (opiates)
  • Stimulants like meth and ecstasy
  • Sedatives and tranquilizers
  • Crack Cocaine
  • Hallucinogens like LSD (acid) or PCP
  • Inhalants
  • Steroids
  • Heroin 

The drugs that are abused most commonly – alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs – may be appealing to teens because they think there is no risk involved in using them. Unfortunately, the use of any of these drugs during the teen years can have serious long-term consequences on a teen’s physical and mental wellbeing. A teen’s brain is still developing, so using any drugs during the teen years can cause problems with the teen’s growth, development, and long term health. Also, using these drugs lowers teens’ inhibitions, which can lead to other dangerous choices like driving under the influence or having unprotected sex.

Because teen drug use dangerous, parents should be aware of signs that their teen may be abusing drugs. Signs that a teen may be using drugs include:

  • Having drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Medications or alcohol missing from your home or the home of family members or friends
  • A change in friends, or hanging out with friends who use drugs
  • Red or glassy eyes, or dilated pupils
  • Slow, slurred speech or talking unusually fast and jumping from subject to subject
  • A dramatic change in appearance
  • Lack of concern with appearance or hygiene
  • Unexplained change in weight
  • Change in performance at school or learning problems
  • Lying or acting sneaking
  • Not caring about risks, consequences, or the future
  • Being disrespectful or aggressive toward family members or family rules and values
  • Showing signs of depression or withdrawal
  • Defensiveness when questioned about activities or drug use
  • Losing interest in favorite activities 

Also, teens who are using or abusing drugs often need money to continue their drug use, though you may not be aware of their money problems. Some signs that teens may be seeking money for drugs include:

  • Valuables missing from your home
  • Your teen having unexplained money or valuables
  • Getting in trouble with the law – or teen violence
  • Stealing money or drugs
  • Borrowing money
  • Always being out of money even if they have an allowance or a job 

It is best to start talking to your teens about teen drug use before they have a problem, but if you think your teen is using drugs, it’s important to talk to them right away. Teens need help to overcome their teen drug abuse.

Parenting Articles

Parent Contracts

Set Rules in Your House with Parent Teen/Child Contracts

Have you ever heard your kid say, “How come I’m grounded? I didn’t know I couldn’t…”? Have you grounded your kid to hear them say “Two Weeks?!?! You never said I would be grounded for TWO WEEKS!” Wouldn’t it be nice to just have it all in writing? But who wants to spend all that time trying to figure out what you should write, what is acceptable, what should the consequences be?

Well, we recommend a site that has just that. has Parent-Teen Contracts that we feel cover all the basics. Family Values Worksheet and Parent Contracts cover: Dating, Driving, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Dress, School, Privileges, Chores, and more. There are nine complete contracts and a Family Values worksheet to help establish and make known your family’s values. There is even a sample of consequences given in categories.

The parent child contracts are really easy to use, you decide what category the consequence is, put it in the appropriate place, sign and date and voila, you have child behavior contracts between you and your kid. There are a couple of places that have bulleted lists to fill out, one is the dress code. The other is in the dating contract. This allows you to be specific in what is allowed and not allowed.

The parent teen contracts help eliminate any gray areas. Everyone knows the rules; everyone knows the consequences. How nice would it be to not have those brain numbing disagreements that solve nothing but raise your blood pressure to near fatal degrees? Can you imagine the peace you could have with the structure created by having the contracts in place?

The child behavior contracts cost $19.95 for the whole package. We recommend that you visit to learn more about the parent teen/child contracts. Make life easier on yourself.

Includes: Teen Dating Contract, Teen Driving Contract, Child Behavior Contracts, Chores Chart, Drug and Alcohol Use worksheet, and more!

Parenting Articles

Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a parenting strategy that focuses on encouraging and building good behaviors by being involved in children’s and teens’ lives. Though positive parenting can’t solve every problem with a troubled teen, it may be able to offset some of the negative factors in a teen’s life and help parents intervene when their teen has a problem.

Positive parenting is about being involved in teen’s lives and encouraging their positive traits while giving them room to grow and helping them develop the self discipline to avoid negative behaviors. Positive parenting techniques may vary somewhat depending on a family’s situation, but some of the general principles include:

  • Tell your teen you love them and find something positive to say about them every day. Teens respond better to positive statements than negative ones, and most teens will start to act more positively if their parents focus on the positive.
  • Talk to teens every day about things that are going on in their lives. Don’t interrogate your troubled teen, but have a conversation with him or her. Allow teens to have their own opinions, but tell them if you are concerned about something.
  • Talk to teens directly about sensitive topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, violence in the media, depression, and suicide. Tell teens what your values and concerns are about these topics, and ask them if they have any questions. Teens listen to their parents’ opinions when making choices, and should feel like they can talk to their parents if they have a question or concern.
  • Set rules that are clear and consistent and establish fair consequences for breaking the rules, like losing driving privileges for a week if the teen breaks curfew. Be consistent in enforcing the consequences when teens break the rules. Avoid using harsh verbal or physical punishments as consequences. Explain the reasons for your rules, and let teens help come up with the rules and consequences.
  • When correcting negative behavior, don’t criticize or belittle your teen. Instead, focus on what the problem is and why you are concerned about it, and involve the teen in finding a solution.
  • Don’t over-schedule your lives; make sure both you and your teen have some time to relax, and give your teen the opportunity to make his or her own decisions about activities and interests.
  • Take an interest in your struggling teen’s interests and encourage them in their positive activities.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends. Don’t forbid teens from seeing friends you don’t like, but tell your teen why you’re concerned about that person.
  • Try to eat at least one meal together as a family without the TV or other media. This encourages families to talk and to develop healthier eating habits, and has been shown to reduce negative behaviors in teens.
  • Try to have realistic expectations; not every teen gets straight As or excels at sports. Focus on appreciating the person your teen is and helping them appreciate their own good qualities as well.
  • Find things you can do with teens that you both enjoy, even if it’s something simple like watching a favorite movie or going for a walk.
  • Give teens reasonable responsibilities around the house so they feel involved with the family and have a sense of responsibility.
  • Don’t make comparisons between your teen and anyone else, especially not siblings.
  • Set a good example of the kind of behavior you expect from your struggling teen, including getting help if there’s a problem you can’t handle on your own. 

Remember that even with positive parenting techniques, teens may still make choices their parents don’t like, and some parents may still need outside help from professionals to deal with teens’ problems. By using positive parenting, however, parents can have more impact on the choices their teens make, and may be better able to spot problems that their teens need help with.

Positive Parenting Tips Sources:

Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth, Positive Parenting, “9 Steps to More Effective Parenting” [online]
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Child Development, “Positive Parenting Tips” [online]

Physical Problems

Drug Testing Kits

Drug Testing

Parents may want to include drug testing kits as part of a family’s drug use prevention efforts, though parents shouldn’t rely on home drug tests alone to detect or prevent drug use, and many doctors recommend against home testing. Parents should learn about drug testing kits to decide if they are right for their family and situation.

Home drug testing kits generally involve taking a sample from the person and either using a test stick that gives a quick response or sending the sample to a lab that will process the test and return an answer. These types of tests are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration. The tests that are sent to labs are kept confidential and may be ready in just a few days. These types of tests are usually very reliable. When using the types of tests that give immediate results, any positive results should be confirmed by a doctor or a lab.

Home drug testing kits can be purchased online or sometimes in local stores. When buying drug testing kits online, make sure that you are purchasing from a reliable company, such as one recommended by your local doctor or law enforcement agency. Most multiple-drug tests cost around $10 each, depending on the number and types of drugs tested for, and they are often sold in sets.

The samples that may be used for drug testing can include:

  • Urine
  • Saliva
  • Sweat
  • Hair

The collection methods vary. Urine is usually collected in a cup and then a stick is dipped in the sample, similar to a home pregnancy test. A patch placed on the skin may be used to gather sweat. Swabs can be used to collect saliva to be sent to a lab. Hair samples are usually collected directly from the person and sent for analysis.

Most of these methods can only tell parents if teen have been using drugs in the past few hours or days. Hair can potentially tell about drug use for up to one or more months prior to the test. It is also less invasive. The use of hair is less well-studied, however, and things like the texture and color of hair, as well as chemicals like dyes that have been used on it, may be able to affect the test results.

Drug tests can screen for a number of drugs, including:

  • Marijuana
  • Opiates
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • PCP
  • Steroids
  • MDMA
  • GHB

Most drug tests only look for certain drugs, not for every drug a teen may be using. Alcohol is generally only detectable when the teen still has it in their system. There are some drugs that teens use that drug tests may not look for, such as some prescription drugs that teens abuse. This is one of the reasons that parents should not rely on drug tests alone to combat drug use in teens.

Another reason to be cautious about relying on drug testing kits is that some tests can be tricked. Most of the methods teens use to try to trick drug tests are not very effective, and some drug tests even detect substances that indicate that teens are trying to trick the tests. Still, parents should be aware that drug tests, though designed to be very reliable, are not foolproof. Also, tests may occasionally give a false positive. This is why positive tests should always be confirmed by a doctor or another source.

Parents may be tempted to drug test teens secretly, such as by taking a hair sample, but this is not usually recommended. Hair samples gathered secretly may be old, and may even belong to another person, such as if a friend used a teen’s hairbrush or someone at school was close enough to get a hair on their clothing. Also, testing in secret eliminates the potential of using drug testing to deter teens from trying drugs. It also may make it harder for parents to help teens if they find that they are using drugs, since the teens will lose trust in their parents and won’t be able to talk to them about their problem.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages involuntary or secret drug testing of young people because there is not enough evidence that home drug testing is useful in combating drug use. Drug testing is not always effective at detecting drugs, and may encourage teens to use drugs that less easily detected, including alcohol. Also, involuntary or secret drug testing may destroy family relationships and do other harm to teens.

If parents are concerned that their teens may be doing drugs but don’t want to use a home drug test, they can take their child to a doctor for drug testing. This also has the advantage of including medical advice and other types of drug and health screening along with the drug test.

If parents decide to use home drug testing, it should not be used to punish teens for drug use. Instead, it should be used to find teens who are using drugs and get them help. Random drug testing may be able to help to deter drug use, and may be able to catch teens who have a drug problem. Drug testing alone, however, is not an effective way to prevent teens from using drugs. The best things parents can do to help their teens are:

  • Talk to teens about why they shouldn’t use any types of drugs and express their love and concern for them
  • Monitor the teens’ behavior
  • Set clear rules against using drugs and enforce reasonable consequences if the rules are broken

Teens who have a drug use problem need counseling and perhaps medical intervention to help them deal with their problem and overcome any addictions that they have. Parents can find counselors or drug recovery programs through their doctor or local health department. Many programs are available for no or low cost to those who cannot pay for medical services.

Drug Testing Kit Sources:
Dr. D. Bruce Burlington, US Food and Drug Administration, News and Events, [Over-the-counter Test Kits for Drugs of Abuse” [online]
National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Frequently Asked Questions About Drug Testing in Schools” [online]
American Academy of Pediatrics, Pediatrics Journal, Policy Statement, “Testing for Drugs of Abuse in Children and Adolescents: Addendum – Testing in Schools and Home” [online]

Parenting Articles

Rebellious Teens

Rebellious and Defiant Teens

One of the most difficult parenting situations that come up around the world is that of rebellious and defiant teens. It is true that most teenagers rebel to some degree. They are testing their limits, and learning to be individuals. It is only natural to rebel a little bit in order to develop a sense of self. However, asserting individuality and testing the boundaries is a different proposition from outright rebellion and defiance.

Rebellious and defiant teens have a disdain for authority, and show little desire to work with parents, teachers and others. They repeatedly cross the line, and may show outright disrespect, flouting rules constantly, or ignoring your strictures. Dealing with rebellious and defiant teens is difficult, and you can only do your best. Here are some ideas for trying to deal with rebellious and defiant teens:

Do what you can to enforce boundaries

It is important to show your rebellious teenager that there are still rules. This means doing your best to enforce consequences. No, you probably can’t stop him or her from sneaking out the window at night. However, you can take away computer privileges or video games. You can also remove car privileges and make it clear that if your child wants to benefit from the extra, “fun” things you have as a family, he or she needs to be a functioning and respectful part of the family. Try these teen behavior contracts.

Try to avoid big fights

This can be difficult, but you need to try to avoid big fights. Part of the reason that defiant and rebellious teens act out is to get a reaction from you. One of the best things you can do is react calmly. Explain that the poor decision that a teenager has made is resulting in a specific consequence (try to choose consequences that you can actually enforce), and that he or she can earn back your trust.

Big fights over a teenager’s hair or clothes will only put you in a losing position. Calmly state that you do’t approve of something your teen is wearing, saying, or listening to, and leave it at that. If the behavior is offensive, you can enforce consequences.

Be available to talk

Try to be available to talk. Listen to your teenager. If he or she comes to you with a problem, or confesses something he or she did, hold your tongue until he or she is done. While it may be difficult, try to avoid making judging statements. If your teen wants advice, give to him or her candidly and calmly. If he or she is admitting wrong-doing, calmly point out that there is a consequence attached to all such actions, and that it will be enforced. Try to help your teen, or just listen on occasion.

Be clear in your unconditional love

It is difficult, but when dealing with rebellious and defiant teens, you need to be clear about your unconditional love for your teenager. Make sure that you are clear that it is the behavior you do not approve of. Also, do your best to avoid comparisons between your troubled teenager and others. These comparisons will most likely only provoke more efforts to rebel as teens feel unloved.

Continue to invite your troubled teenager to family activities, and express a desire for your child to join the table at meal times. Be sure that you continue to provide the basics of life: Shelter, food and clothing. However, you do need to make it clear that you will not tolerate violence in your home, and that your teen should not endanger anyone else in the family.

Programs for rebellious and defiant teens

If your teenager has become so unmanageable that he or she is engaged in illegal activities, or becoming violent, you might have to look into programs for your teenager. Make it clear that you love your teen, and you want to help him or her, but you can’t have destructive behavior in your home. Programs for rebellious teens can help your teenager learn techniques to manage his or her anger issues and problems. In these cases, your teen might still have problems when he or she gets back from the program, but they might be more manageable.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you have a troubled teenager. You should do what you can to re-establish a good relationship with your teenager, and show that you are concerned and loving. In the end, though, all you can do is try your best, since rebellious and defiant teens make their own decisions.

Parenting Articles

Struggling Teens

Struggling Teens

The teen years are rife with difficulty. If you think back, it is likely that you will remember your own teen years as times that included painful scenes and a certain level of unhappiness. This is quite natural. Teenagers are dealing with rapidly developing bodies. Growth and development of the kind not seen since the earliest years of childhood are taking place. Even the brain is still developing at rapid rate.

In order for normal teen growth and development to take place, hormones must be released into the body. The hormonal and chemical changes that take place in a teen body can be sources of frustration, confusion and a myriad of other emotions that are normal during the teenage years. With all of this going on inside a teenager, it is little surprise that what goes on outside the body can affect teenagers as well.

Stresses related to schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a possible after school job, social pressures and anxiety about the future can all combine to push a teenager into troubled territory. Teenagers with challenging family situations, or who deal with a major upheaval in life (such as moving or a parent’s job loss), are even more likely to struggle.

Problems common to struggling teens

Struggling teens are those that are having a more difficult adjusting to what is going on in their lives. Struggling teens are beginning to act out undesirable behavior with increasing frequency. A certain amount of anger, withdrawal from family, mild rebellion and tension is to be expected during the teen years. However, struggling teens tend to exhibit such behaviors on an escalating scale. While normal teens might have mood swings and bad days, struggling teens tend to grow progressively worse in their behaviors as the struggles deepen.

Some of the problems that are common to struggling teens include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Disdain for authority
  • Withdrawal from all family life
  • Falling grades
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Increase in unsafe sexual activity
  • Drastic change in sleeping habits
  • Change in eating habits, leading to dramatic weight gain or loss 

If you see signs of the above with increasing frequency, there is a good chance that you are dealing with a trouble teenager. It is important to be on the alert for signs that your teenager may be struggling. This is because struggling teens can turn to illegal activities in order to attempt to fulfill some perceived need, or to help them deal with the problems of life.

Another concern is actually to do with health and wellbeing. Not all struggling teens lash out at their parents, becoming rebellious and turning to extreme sports or illegal drugs. Not all struggling teenagers turn physically violent toward others. Indeed, some troubled teens become suicidal, sure that the only way to escape the problems besetting them is to take their own lives. It is vital that you watch for signs of depression in teenagers, since it could lead to death.

Another health concern might be an eating disorder. Some teenagers turn to food for comfort during times of trouble. Overeating can result in a number of health problems now and in the future. The social consequences of rapid weight gain can also contribute to the complication of depression as a teen’s self image plunges. Anorexia is another eating disorder that can cause health problems. Some teenagers deny themselves food, or engage in bulimic behaviors, as a sign of struggle. These disorders come with their own set of health problems, some of which are long term.

The teen years can be tough on everyone. However, as a parent, it is up to you to watch your teenager for signs of struggle. There are programs that are designed to help struggling teens. Check with your local social services to find out about local support programs. You can also look into residential facilities and programs that specialize in helping struggling teens. The important thing, though, is to get help for struggling teens before the problems get completely out of hand and affect a teen’s future.

Parenting Articles

Single Parenting

Parenting is a hard job, and single parents face extra challenges. Though every family’s situation is unique, there are some tips that single parents can try to overcome some of their challenges.

Some single parent statistics show the prevalence and challenges of single parenting in America:

  • Slightly more than 1 in 4 children in America is being raised by a single parent.
  • About 40% of children born in 2007 were born to unmarried mothers.
  • 23% of kids live with only a mother, 4% live with only a father, and 4% live with neither parent.
  • 3% live with unmarried parents.
  • Black children are the most likely to be raised by a single parent, followed by Hispanic, then white children.
  • Children living with only one parent have financial and educational disadvantages compared to children with both parents, especially if their parent is the mother and if she did not finish high school. 

Parents may be single due to separation, divorce, or death, or they may have never been married. Also, some parents may have a partner who is not able to help with parenting due to a disability or a job that takes them away from their family most of the time. Parents in different situations face different challenges, but in all of these cases it is hard for both the parent and his or her children to parent alone.

Having a single parent can be hard on children and teens, who often wish they could have more of their parents’ attention and may have emotional issues to work through. Though every situation is unique, here are some tips that might help a single parent whose child or teen is struggling:

  • Tell your children every day that you love them.
  • Encourage your children to recognize and express their feelings. Younger kids especially may need help recognizing feelings like sadness, hurt, and fear that can come as a result of the loss of one parent, and teens may also need help dealing with these emotions. Even teens who grew up not knowing their other parent may at times feel a sense of loss over his or her absence. It’s okay to get help from someone else to talk to teens, including a relative, clergy member, or professional counselor.
  • Let teens ask questions and give them honest, age-appropriate answers. Be honest when you don’t know an answer – there are some questions only the absent parent would be able to answer.
  • Don’t say negative things about the absent spouse. This may be very hard, but it’s not good for children or teens to hear one of their parents say bad things about the other, and may lead to feelings of anger. This doesn’t mean a parent should make up good things, but they should refrain from saying bad things.
  • While you may be too busy working and trying to be both mom and dad to spend as much time with your teen as you would like, make time for special activities together. Try to eat at least one meal together as a family every day, even if it’s breakfast or a late dinner. Also, consider finding one time each week that you can set aside as family time to do fun activities together. Activities don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impression on teens.
  • If you work in the afternoon when teens are out of school, make sure your teens have somewhere to go and positive activities to do. The time right after school is when teens are most likely to get into trouble, but if they are with a responsible relative or neighbor or in an after school program they are less likely to get into trouble. Summer programs are also available in many communities for times when parents are working while school is not in session.
  • Have clear, consistent rules, and enforce the consequences when the rules are broken. It may be especially tempting for a single parent to “let things slide,” but its very important for teens to have clear rules and consistent consequences.
  • Emphasize the importance of education to your children. Get help for teens who are struggling in school.
  • Do as much as you can to be supportive of teens’ positive activities, like sports or music. You may not be able to be there for every game or performance, but go when you can, and talk to teens about their interests to show that you care.
  • Be patient with teens when you are starting to date again or getting remarried. This can be a difficult process, and it may take time for teens to adjust to it. Keep talking to them about their feelings.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek support for yourself or your teens. Support groups like Parents Without Partners can help single parents feel support. Family and friends can also help, and being involved in community or church groups can relieve loneliness for parents and give teens positive role models.
  • Be aware of signs of depression, aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts and behavior in teens or in yourself. Talk to teens about concerning behavior, and seek counseling if you are still concerned. Many communities have free or low-cost counseling for those who do not have insurance that covers the costs. 

Single Parenting Tips and Single Parent Statistics Sources:

Nemours, KidsHealth, “Tips for Divorcing Parents” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Living with a Single Parent” [online]
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census Brief, “Children with single parents – how they fare” [online]
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being, 2009” [online]