Drug abuse is use of drugs or alcohol that causes problems in the abuser's life. Children who abuse drugs and alcohol are at increased risk of serious drug use later in life. Substance abuse may also cause school failure and poor judgment that puts kids at greater risk for accidents, violence, unplanned and unsafe sex, and suicide.
Children abuse many kinds of drugs, both legal and illegal, including:
Drug abuse can lead to addiction. When a child is addicted, drug use becomes the child's primary focus. Nothing else (health, school, work, or family) matters as much as getting and using drugs.
Some drugs also cause a physical need for the drug and severe withdrawal when the drug is stopped. Withdrawal from narcotics such as heroin and methadone is very painful. Withdrawal from alcohol and other sedative hypnotics can be life-threatening, causing seizures and delirium.
Children who are abusing alcohol or drugs may:
Some of these warning signs can also be signs of other problems. Your child's healthcare provider should examine the child and ask about symptoms to make sure that there are no physical causes. If the problems are not physical, your child may be referred to a mental health specialist.
For more information, call the National Institute on Drug Abuse at 301-443-1124 or visit their Web site at http://www.nida.nih.gov.