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Parenting Guide: Drugs and Alcohol Abuse
Alcohol and Drugs Can Destroy a Family
While much is written and aired on TV about alcohol and drugs, most families are surprisingly unprepared to deal with problems of misuse and abuse in their families because there is a stigma attached to anyone with a drug or alcohol problem. Many parents feel that "normal" families don't have these problems, or that they have failed as parents if their child has a problem. Parents might repress their fears or deny real problems.
Reasons Kids Turn to Alcohol and Drugs
Many parents are surprised to learn that attitudes about drinking start at home and play a large part in children's later attitudes about drugs.
Sometimes a child gets his first taste of alcohol from well-intentioned parents who mistakenly believe that the "awful" and unfamiliar taste will discourage their children from wanting alcohol. Unfortunately, that first taste can make the child feel warm and rather good.
If children see their parents drinking to unwind after a hard day, after an argument, or as an essential part of a social get-together, those early impressions about alcohol may be reinforced.
For teenagers, the reasons are more complex than just a warm feeling. Adolescents want desperately to be accepted by their friends and are likely to imitate the behavior of their peers, including drinking and taking drugs, to gain acceptance.
Kids with low self-esteem are especially susceptible. They often use alcohol and drugs to feel more comfortable around others. They can alleviate shyness and relieve nervousness.
Unfortunately, the loosening of inhibitions can lead to other potentially harmful outcomes:
- Problems at school
- Drinking and driving
- Unplanned sexual activity and consequent pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease.
- Emotional trauma over guilty feelings
- Criminal activity, often to support their habit
- Physical problems, including alcohol poisoning
Contrary to what most adolescents think, instead of making them more energetic, alcohol can actually lead to:
- Sadness and depression
- Suicide attempts