Children inheriting drug abuse habit

THE HANS INDIA |   Aug 08,2017 , 09:04 AM IST

drug use amount children
drug use amount children

Substance abuse has historically not been a major problem amongst adolescents and young people. However, findings from a recent survey conducted by AIIMS, New Delhi and some recent police investigations in Hyderabad have both suggested a high prevalence of drug use amongst young children and adolescents.

In fact, Indian studies among adolescents have reported the prevalence of tobacco use between 14-21 per cent, alcohol between 3-4 per cent, cannabis around 0.6 per cent and opioids around 0.1 per cent.

In clinical practice, we don’t commonly come across children and young people seeking help for substance use problems, but a high proportion of adults who present for alcohol and other substance use problems, acknowledge using these from their teens.

Youngsters often start by using tobacco and alcohol, but some progress on to other drugs like cannabis, inhalants and less commonly, opioids and other hard drugs. Lately, there has also been an increased availability and use of stimulants like LSD and Ecstasy amongst youngsters.

The main risk of substance use amongst teenagers is that of addiction but there are other associated risks too- for example impulsive behaviour, aggression, dangerous driving and decline in academic performance.

Peer pressure, the need for peer acceptance, curiosity, lack of boundaries and parental supervision, broken families, domestic adversities, mental illness and substance use amongst family members- all contribute to the risk of drug use amongst youngsters. Further, children with specific mental health problems like conduct disorders and ADHD are at a higher risk too.

Changes in the young person’s behaviour, becoming increasingly moody, withdrawn and isolative, non-interactive with family or friends, changes in the friends’ circle, decline in academic performance, reduced interest in previous hobbies and interests, aggression- could all be subtle indicators of adolescent problems and need to be explored and addressed.

For a start, parents should aim to develop an honest and confiding relationship with the youngster. They need to be genuinely interested in the youngster’s life, his/her experiences and keep track of what is happening at school, with friends, etc. Close and caring parental supervision, with consistent boundaries is important.

Educating the youngster of the dangers of substance use is important. Parents also need to be alert to changes in the adolescent’s behaviour explore and address the same.

They need to address any familial factors that might contribute to the risks (noted above), as well as provide a positive role model for the youngster to look to emulate.

Finally, they need to be prompt in seeking medical or psychiatric help if they notice any signs of the youngster developing any mental health or substance use problems. The sooner issues are assessed and addressed, the better the outcomes.

By: Dr Venugopal Duddu
The writer is Senior Consultant Psychiatrist

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