Sam came into my office with fear in his eyes. His father had called me and stated he needed to find some help for his boy – all had not been right for a while. Sam was a freshman in college and had been doing outstanding in his studies. During the Christmas break, Sam had gone to a party and though he has smoked pot occasionally, he was about to experience drugs in a whole new light.
The mixture was LSD and Ecstasy – candy flipping. Being inexperienced with the drugs, he took five times the normal dosage and three months later, he was still dealing with side effects.
After the pleasurable effects of candy flipping, Sam dealt with unwanted after-effects, which typically occur two to three days after the drug use and are known as blues or suicide Tuesday:
- Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia
- Problems with sleeping
- Poor concentration
- Loss of appetite
- Craving for the drug
But what made it even worse for Sam was not just the normal side effects but he had incurred possible brain damage with side effects still affecting him months afterwards: difficulty sleeping, erratic behavior, temper issues, balance and difficulty with light tracing.
Sam had to drop out of the following term and was struggling with holding a job and at times, dealing with simple reality. What began as an experimental night out with friends became a struggle to understand for the family: Would this be his new reality for the rest of his life?
- In 1998, nearly 10 percent of adolescents (age 12 to 17) reported using an illicit drug at least once during the past month. About one in 12 youth (8.3 percent) in this age group are current (past month) users of marijuana, the most frequently used illicit drug, and 19.1 percent are current users of alcohol.
- More than half (55 percent) of our nation’s 12th graders have tried an illicit drug and more than one-quarter (29 percent) have tried a drug other than marijuana, such as cocaine, inhalants and heroin.
- Youth age 16 to 17 have the second highest rate (16.4 percent) of current illicit drug use in the country. The highest rate (19.9 percent) is found among young people age 18 to 20.
- It’s estimated that 400,000 adolescents are in need of substance abuse treatment
- Reports from eighth graders first use of substances by the fourth grade: alcohol 6.8%, cigarettes 7.3%, inhalants 3.6%, and marijuana 1.1%
- Although consumption of alcoholic beverages is illegal for people under 21 years of age, 10.4 million current drinkers are age 12 to 20. Of this group, nearly half (5.1 million) engage in binge drinking, including 2.3 million who would also be classified as heavy drinkers.
People who interact with adolescents in the home or community need to be alert to changes in an adolescent’s behavior and appearance that may signal substance abuse.
By recognizing the potential warning signs and symptoms of substance use, you may be able to get help for a teenager in need of treatment. The following behavior changes, when extreme or lasting for more than a few days, may indicate alcohol-related or drug-related problems and the need for further screening by a professional.
Sudden changes in personality without another known cause:
- Loss of interest in once favorite hobbies, sports, or other activities
- Sudden decline in performance or attendance at school or work
- Changes in friends and reluctance to talk about new friends
- Deterioration of personal grooming habits
- Difficulty in paying attention, forgetfulness
- Sudden aggressive behavior, irritability, nervousness, or giddiness
- Increased secretiveness, heightened sensitivity to inquiry