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Alcohol is America's most abused drug. Studies show that over 90 percent of high school seniors have tried alcohol. It may be easier for teenagers to "just say no" to illegal drugs than to alcohol. Beer parties have long been an accepted part of high school culture. Teenagers may also believe the myth that beer and wine coolers are less intoxicating than hard liquor. All of this means your teenager is more likely to be involved with alcohol than with any other drug.
Risks of Alcohol Abuse
Drunk driving is the most immediate threat that alcohol poses to teenagers. Prom or graduation night celebrations too often turn into tragedy for teens who don't realize how severely alcohol can slow their reactions and impair their judgment. Bad judgment can make the person act in ways he later regrets. A teenager may get into a fight with a friend or engage in unsafe sex while under the influence of alcohol.
If your son or daughter develops a steady drinking problem, more risks follow. Long-term drinking can damage the liver, kidney, heart, and brain. It can also make it difficult or impossible to hold a job or to maintain a marriage.
If you think your teenager may have a drinking problem, try not to react with anger and accusations. If he or she comes home drunk, for example, wait until the next morning to discuss it. Being confrontational will probably make your teen defensive and rebellious. Instead, explain that you are extremely concerned for his or her health and safety, and you want to help. Describe the risks of drinking and offer your understanding and support. Listen to your teen's concerns. Many teens simply fear that refusing to drink will make them social outcasts.
Alcoholism in the Family
Medical researchers think that, in some cases, alcoholism can be hereditary. Whether or not this is true, there are many families in which several members have a drinking problem. This can complicate the situation if a child becomes an alcoholic as well. In cases like this, putting the blame on an alcoholic parent can be as unhelpful as ignoring the drinking. Propose that the whole family seek help from an organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Al-Anon, which is for non-drinking family members.
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WHO IS A CHILD OF AN ALCOHOLIC?
CHILDREN OF ALCOHOLICS
Alcoholism in the home has long-lasting effects. Children of alcoholics often learn to cope with an unhappy childhood in a way that causes problems for them much later in life. Learning about how alcoholism affected your past can help you to make sure your future is better.
Childhood Characteristics, Beliefs, & Patterns
Children of alcoholics often act in one of the following ways:
Children of alcoholics often believe that they are all alone, that no other families have these problems, or that it is up to them to cure the parent. A child may take the blame for a parent's alcoholism-or the parent may blame the child. As a result, many children of alcoholics not only feel unloved, but unlovable. Some of them suffer physical or sexual abuse, which reinforces this feeling. And because life at home is full of disappointments, broken promises, and lies, the child learns not to trust, not to get too close to anyone, and not to communicate in healthy ways.
Problems In Adult Life
Adult children of alcoholics often retain their childhood patterns. The super-responsible child may grow into an adult who demands perfectionism. The child who was the family's scapegoat may have legal or financial troubles throughout life. The child who used to adjust to anything may be passive and withdrawn as an adult. And the family clown may grow up to be entertaining, but irresponsible.
An adult child of an alcoholic may be anxious, may try to control events and relationships, may have trouble being intimate, may be chronically depressed, or have stress-related health problems. Tragically, many children of alcoholics either become chemically dependent themselves or marry alcoholics.
How To Help Or Get Help
If you know a child living in an alcoholic home, try doing these things:
If you grew up with an alcoholic parent:
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WHERE CAN I FIND SOME INFORMATION ABOUT HOW TO TALK TO MY KIDS ABOUT DRUGS?
TALKING TO YOUR KIDS ABOUT DRUG ABUSE
Keeping The Lines Of Communication Open
The way drugs are taking over our schools and destroying our children's lives probably frightens you. But if you suspect your child is using drugs, you must tread carefully. Don't spy or make emotional accusations. Those are sure ways to make your child rebellious and defensive. Instead, tell him that drugs can damage his health and his future. Explain that you want to protect him from the danger of drugs just as you would want to protect him from any other threat.
Watch For The Warning Signs Of Drug Abuse
Although the warning signs of drug abuse vary from person to person, there are some changes you should watch for in your child. Be concerned if he or she:
Dispel Drug Myths
Two illegal drugs commonly abused by teenagers are marijuana (pot) and cocaine (coke). There are many myths that could make your child think pot and coke are safe to use.
Teenagers often think it is safe to smoke pot. They couldn't be more wrong. Marijuana is both physically and psychologically addictive. Long-term users suffer from irritability and insomnia when they try to quit. But not quitting can be even worse. Pot can cause lung cancer and other diseases, just as cigarettes can. Pot also causes kids to lose their ambition and drive, and may keep your child from becoming emotionally mature.
The risks of coke are better known. But youngsters often think they're invulnerable to drugs. Tell your child that cocaine and "crack" (cocaine that's smoked) are the most addictive drugs around. They're also unpredictable. Cocaine can kill suddenly by triggering a heart attack or seizure. And injecting cokeor any drugcan put your child at risk for AIDS.
Self-Esteem Is The Best Defense Against Drugs
Children often try drugs in order to "fit in" or to impress their friends. Staying clean can be very difficult for a child who has little confidence in himself. You can help your child resist drugs by telling him that he is special - too special to waste his life with drugs.
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WHY DOES ALCOHOLISM RUN IN FAMILIES?
Is Alcoholism Inherited?
Many studies have shown that children of alcoholics are three to five times more likely to become alcoholics than children of nonalcoholic parents. Does this mean that a tendency toward alcoholism can be inherited? Researchers don't know for sure.
Nature Or Nurture?
Both heredity and environment may influence whether or not a person becomes an alcoholic. Researchers are still wondering which is most importantthe biological status of a person's parents, or the way in which the person was raised. Unfortunately, the results of their studies have been confusing. Many alcoholics have no known alcoholic relatives, and many children of alcoholics do not become alcoholic. Yet children of alcoholics who are adopted into non-alcoholic homes at an early age are more likely to become alcoholics than children of non-alcoholics who are adopted into alcoholic homes.
Researchers disagree about the meanings of recent findings. Some say that certain studies on alcoholism may not be reliable because they depend on alcoholics own descriptions of themselves. Some say that research involving adoptive children is inadequate because it did not study non-adoptive children in order to determine how being adopted might affect the development of alcoholism. And some say that not enough attention has been paid to environmental factors, such as the age at which the child was adopted, the occupational status of the adoptive father and whether or not the ethnic background condoned adult drunkeness.
What does seem clear is that children of alcoholics are physically different from children of non-alcoholics. Differences are shown in brain wave patterns and hormone responses to intoxication. In addition, children of alcoholics report feeling less intoxicated after drinking a certain amount of alcohol than children of non-alcoholics. Some researchers believe that feeling less intoxicated may contribute to heavy drinking habits Whether a tendency towards alcoholism can be inherited or not, these differences suggest that children of alcoholics should be especially careful about whether and how they drink.
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WHEN DOES USE BECOME ABUSE?
USE OR ABUSE?
Dependence on alcohol or other drugs is a widespread problem. Many times, people dont recognize it. Chemical dependency is simply the inability to control the use of some physical substance - not being able to quit, and not being able to limit how much is used. If you have a dependency problem, recognizing it can help you to move toward a happier and healthier life.
You might think of a chemically dependent person as someone who cant live without their drink or drugs, who is often drunk or stoned, who uses every day, or is irresponsible, immoral, weak-willed or even evil. The fact is, a person can be chemically dependent without showing such obvious signs, and dependency can cause serious problems in a persons life. We are gradually beginning to realize that a persons genetic make-up may affect his or her chances of becoming dependent, and that dependency is often a physical condition that cannot be cured by willpower alone.
Symptoms Of Dependency
Here are some signs that might indicate a chemical dependency problem in you or someone you love:
Problems Caused By Dependency
Chemically dependent people often act unwisely or inappropriately while under the influence of their drug. They may act in ways that will embarrass them later, such as by telling dirty jokes at a party. They may endanger their health and lives, and the lives of others, by having unsafe sex, or by driving while intoxicated. They may lose their jobs or families as people around them are hurt by their actions.
What To Do
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step toward recovering from chemical dependency. If you think you might have a problem of this type, here are some steps you can take:
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