In this excerpt from ‘When Good Kids Do Bad Things – A Survival Guide for Parents of Teenagers‘ – the parenting book with 11 5-star reviews on Amazon – Katherine Gordy Levine looks at the realities of drug use amongst American teenagers and suggests parents be aware, but calm.
Any American parent these days is sensible to worry about the possibility that a teenager is drinking or taking drugs. Perhaps you believe, as do many of my colleagues, that parents always know when a kid is using. In fact, the professional term is “denial” to describe the situation when parents don’t know because they don’t want to know. Denial can certainly be a problem, for normal caring includes wanting to see a teenager in the best light. But it simply isn’t true that parents have to fool themselves; they can be fooled by their kids, as my experience in counseling teenagers and their parents has frequently proved to me. In my foster-parenting years as well, I was also reminded of a simple truth: Often, parents do not know until drug use turns into drug abuse.
“Not my child,” you might say, but the odds are stacked against you and your teenager by at least three factors: the heavy advertising emphasis on the joys of partying; the social belief that drinking is somehow a necessary aspect of being adult at last; and the grapevine word that drugs can make you feel wonderful when you’re down. The choice of drugs change, but not the pressure to use, particularly in high school; sad to say, the pressure only increases in college.
As mentioned earlier, the general view that youth is the time to experiment combined with the denigration of authority figures, particularly parents, allows many parents and many youths to ignore the known facts.
The facts are indisputable. Most kids will experiment with one or another drug. Most will start with beer or liquor, then probably try marijuana. Depending on many personal, social, environmental, and perhaps genetic factors, a significant percentage will continue their experimentation to the realm of harder drugs and risk becoming addicted.
I’m not trying to give you sleepless nights. Quite the contrary. You should calm yourself, despite the obvious dangers out there, and recognize that you do not, and cannot, exercise complete control over your child’s decisions about drug and alcohol use. You can also comfort yourself with the fact that although many experiment, few become abusers, and fewer addicts.
The rest of the chapter on substance abuse deals with warning signs of more serious drug use and what to do if addiction is suspected and/or confirmed.