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News and Featured Stories from St. Vincent's Medical Center
Published: 06/08/2011

What Parents Should Know
About Fighting Teen Drug Abuse


teen drug abuseForewarned is forearmed, the saying goes, and there are few parents today who have not heard the warnings on the subject of drug abuse among our youth. “But when the subject of kids and drugs comes up, they think of it as someone else’s problem, not theirs. That’s a mistake,” said St. Vincent’s Behavioral Health Services Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Asini Gunawardana, MD. The availability of illegal drugs is by now an accepted, if difficult, reality.

But whether its ‘just’ marijuana,a club drug like XTC (ecstasy), or the cheap but lifethreatening ‘black tar’ heroin now being offered to children as young as eleven, these substances are in the best and worst of neighborhoods and
schools. “Setting doesn’t matter,” Dr.Gunawardana said. “The persistence of dealers and the innocence or emotional state of the kids they target, does.”

A guide for action

Thankfully, according to the doctor, there are guidelines any parent can follow to stand between his or her teen and the tragic outcomes of drug abuse.

Early education

No better protection exists against illegal drugs than parents who give their children the right skill set to resist them. Knowing the harmful potential drugs have, the various forms they come in and how dealers or friends may be ready to offer them can arm a child’s defenses even before adolescence

Parental vigilance

Keeping watch means knowing the signs (personality changes, dipping grades, loss of interest, depression) that a child is using drugs. But it also means recognizing that adolescence brings hormonal changes that signal the need to develop control over one’s life. 

Firmness with understanding

This is a time when parental intrusions may be loudly resented. But research shows that firm but loving parental direction along with showing that what they think and feel matters, is processed by teens as evidence that their parents care and are

Getting help

Your pediatrician can discuss with you what may be happening with your child. Though not at liberty to share information the child has asked be kept secret (except in life-threatening situations), the pediatrician can refer you to professionals who can help “Here at St. Vincent’s we have both in-patient and out-patient services for teenagers,” said Vice Chairperson of St. Vincent’s Department of Psychiatry Sheila Cooperman, MD.

"The teen and family members are included in the evaluation. We assess for drug use, completing the diagnostic picture and treatment plan, and meetings are scheduled as needed to provide families with the information about the treatment team findings.

Teens receive education about drug use and its consequences as well as the influence it can have on mood, impulses and behavior. The program is very comprehensive and can truly help teenagers move out of the grip of these devastating drugs.”

For more information, call 1-800-LifeNow (543-3669)

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