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Tough choices complicate teen lives

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Susan Phillips

Today's teens are facing a complex and often complicated lifestyle that is made even more difficult by being confronted by tough choices, according to Susan Phillips, Cumberland Mental Health Services.

Phillips said the choices teens make are many times influenced by the persuasion of peers, by emotions that confuse what choices are available, and by what circumstances may result from the choices they make.

While there are a number of topics that consume decision making by teens perhaps there are none more important than the decisions they will make when confronted with having to make the choice of being a user of alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or tobacco products, all of which can lead to issues of abuse and addiction.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more teens die from use of prescription drugs than heroin or cocaine combined; more high school seniors regularly choose to use marijuana over cigarettes; 60 percent of seniors don't see regular use of marijuana as harmful; 60 percent of teens who get or take prescription drugs illegally get them from relatives or friends; by the eighth grade 28 percent of all adolescents have consumed alcohol, 15 percent have smoked cigarettes, and 16.5 percent have used marijuana; and about 50 percent of high school seniors don't think it is harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice.

The statistics and data provided are based on a national study but even so the threat remains very real here in Sumner County.

As a parent, you should be attentive and be aware of certain signs that may be pointing to some form of substance abuse being practiced by your child. These indicators are not the final word that a youth may be using illegal substances but are certainly valid considerations.

You should watch for a change in behavioral patterns such as times of depression, emotional swings, being loud when it is not appropriate, being secretive or deceitful, having a new set of friends, locking doors, not returning home on time, and staying away from home more frequently.

You should also be aware of the smell of smoke or alcohol on your teen's body or clothing, of missing prescription medications, of missing bottles of alcohol, and the appearance of butane lighters, matches, rolling papers and other items that may indicate the use of tobacco or drug products.

If you believe your child may need help or you want to find out more about this topic please feel call or contact Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System at 1-877-567-6051 or at www.vbhcs.org.

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