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Recognizing Signs Of Abuse

One day, a teenager is cheerful and communicative. The next day, she's moody and defensive. She's secretive, exhibits odd behavior, and sometimes has fits of temper for no good reason. These are some of the possible warning signs of a substance abuse problem, but—as any parent, teacher, or fellow student knows—they are often just a normal part of adolescent behavior.

For drug abusers, however, the drug habit begins to take a toll on their everyday lives. They lose interest in schoolwork and extracurricular activities. They may start hanging out with a new crowd of friends. They lie to hide their drug use and its consequences. Parents may be shocked to discover that their former model students are suddenly cutting class and stealing money from them. They may exhibit abnormal anxiety, depression, lethargy, aggressiveness, or other personality changes. Physical signs may include sudden weight loss, abnormal fatigue, or inattention to hygiene.

Heroin is one of the most potent and addictive illegal drugs. Most teens recognize that it is too dangerous to experiment with, but some adolescents believe that they're immune to the risks. Teenagers are constantly looking for new experiences and ideas. They might believe that trying heroin once, just to see what it's like, won't hurt. They may think that adults exaggerate the potential dangers. Sometimes, they're introduced to the drug by a friend or family member. In some cases, drug experimentation or other risky behaviors may be a symptom of underlying psychological problems.

Most new heroin users believe that they can control their use of the drug. They reason that if they use it only occasionally, they are in no danger of becoming addicted. Even after they become regular users, heroin abusers frequently remain in denial about the extent of their dependence on the drug.

Parents, friends, and teachers are often slow to recognize the warning signs of heroin abuse. They may have inaccurate preconceptions about the “typical” heroin user. Many people think that hard drugs are an inner-city problem, or that only the kids on the fringes of the social order at school would try heroin. In reality, heroin has spread to city suburbs and rural areas. The average age of users has fallen. Feature stories in newspapers may tell about the downfall of a star high school athlete or a promising young college graduate due to heroin. Old profiles of a “typical” heroin user are no longer accurate.

Ten Great Questions to Ask a Drug Counselor

  1. What resources are offered by my school or community for adolescents with substance abuse problems?
  2. Some of my friends have told me that doing heroin once or twice is perfectly safe and that I should try it. What's the best way to let them know I'm not interested?
  3. I think that one of my friends is using heroin, but he won't admit that he has a problem. Who can I talk to about getting help for him?
  4. My friends think that my drug use is out of control, but I don't think I have a problem. How can I tell if I'm really addicted?
  5. I'm too ashamed to admit to my parents that I have a drug problem. How can I approach them?
  6. I'm recovering from a drug problem and I feel like I don't fit in at school anymore. How can I get back into my old routine?
  7. I'm recovering from a drug problem and I'm constantly tempted to return to using heroin. How can I avoid relapsing?
  8. I've used heroin in the past, and now I'm experiencing health problems. Could these have been caused by drug use?
  9. A friend of mine is recovering from a heroin problem. How can I help support her?
  10. I hurt a lot of people's feelings when I had a drug problem, and now they don't trust me. How can I repair our relationships?

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaCommon Street DrugsAbuse - Physical And Psychological Effects, Recognizing Signs Of Abuse, Ten Great Questions To Ask A Drug Counselor