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(8) Drugs & Child’s

Drug Addicted Children


Should I look for other conditions in addition to drug problems?

There are studies that track how often psychiatric conditions exist and what conditions usually go together. One study reported that 15-24-year-olds had the highest 12-month prevalence of any disorder, including substance abuse. Substance-abusing adolescents reveal high rates of coexisting mood disorders and behavior problems (conduct disorder). In a survey of adolescents in the community who abuse drugs, they are more likely to also suffer from mood problems. Individuals with severe problems with the law (such as those with antisocial personality disorder) have high rates of substance abuse. For adolescents with severe conduct problems and drug use, depression imparts risk far more severe than drug use alone. These adolescents abuse more drugs in combination, tend to have behavioral problems at an earlier age, and have increased anxiety and attention problems.

Adolescents with history of PTSD were found to have increased risk for cannabis use separate from the effects of deviant peers, genetics, race, male gender, socioeconomic status, or having a substance-abusing parent. Therefore, the significant interaction of these problems indicates that these conditions warrant very aggressive treatment.

I have a friend whose son has ADHD and is also receiving counseling for drug abuse. Was her son at a higher risk for substance abuse because of his ADHD?

The combination of ADHD and CD appears to be a more robust risk factor for later substance abuse than CD alone. Parents of children with CD alone have lower rates of alcohol and drug abuse than the parents of the conduct plus ADHD group. The parents in both of these groups had higher rates of children with substance abuse than the parents of children with ADHD alone. ADHD is found to occur in 30-50% of patients with co-occurring CD. ADHD was also shown to be associated with early onset of cigarette smoking. In addition, mood/anxiety disorders and conduct disorders, which are elevated in smokers, are also associated with ADHD. These conditions go along with each other to some extent.

Is there a relationship between bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) and drug abuse?

Adolescent-onset bipolar disorder is associated with higher risk for drug use compared to childhood-onset bipolar disorder. In fact, it ranks just slightly lower than conduct disorder (CD) in conferring that risk. When these two co-occur, recovery is more difficult, and both have to be treated aggressively.

 Do drugs cause problems with anger?

Drug use increases the risk for adolescents to get involved in fights. In some ways, drugs offer a reason for adolescents to act on their anger. Some get disinhibited by drug use.

You might have heard a story about a youngster known to be meek and quiet who then becomes violent while under the influence of drugs. It is also likely that drug use is intertwined with antisocial behavior where anger is channeled through gang activities (“jumping” other kids). On the other hand, some kids avoid acting on their anger and using drugs as a means to regain control or even numb their feelings. The use of drugs can also act as a way to deal with pent-up anger resulting from family problems, school problems, or even from boyfriend/girlfriend issues.

Irritability and aggression can be identified as behaviors for which medications are prescribed, especially if anger impedes benefits from psychosocial interventions. Individuals who act on their anger are at increased risk for later substance abuse. A derived scale, the Violence Proneness Scale (VPS) from the Drug Use Screening Inventory, is significantly predictive of aggressive behavior in young boys five to seven years later. The VPS established with 82% accuracy which male youths tested at age 16 did and did not give drugs in exchange for sex three years later. The VPS can be a very useful psycho educational tool for parents during initial evaluations in identifying and discussing future risks especially if no treatment is provided.

 There is a high rate of alcoholism in my family, so my child must be doomed to develop this condition, right?

This is a fatalistic sentiment expressed by parents every now and then. While there is a strong heritability for drug use, especially for alcohol use (up to 60%), this is still seen only as vulnerability: no complete causal relationship has emerged from studies. There are things that can be done before problems start. Your child can benefit from getting involved with extracurricular activities or sports. Spending quality time with your child as a family will be important in his or her upbringing. As parents, you can set living examples of leading a sober life. It takes courage to even talk about the presence of this risk factor in your family. Doing so affords a more open, honest, and candid conversation so that other, healthier choices can be made. His or her keeping sober friends that you also know decrease this risk. This will require your commitment, time, and effort as you and your child get involved with help.

Putting risks aside, are there any factors that can protect my child from substance abuse?

We know that certain factors have a greater chance of protecting children from using drugs-female gender; higher socioeconomic status; high academic aspiration or achievement; close and affectionate relationships with parents or family members; and absence of parental marital problems, chronic conflict, or alcohol abuse. In addition, family’s involvement with church confers protection.

Church activities allow for the youngster’s involvement in activities promoting social interaction with peers, moral development, and appropriate self-control. Treatment of co-occurring psychiatric conditions also decreases risk of future drug problems. It is therefore imperative that general difficulties observed early on in childhood be discussed with your primary doctors or pediatrician to establish need for further evaluation/referral and early treatment.

 Are there other characteristics that are likely to contribute to increased drug or alcohol use?

A risk profile was developed in a study to predict those who intended to use alcohol and those who did not among fifth and sixth graders. Rejection of parental authority was correlated with sixth graders more than with fifth graders. This is suggestive of a dwarfing importance of family role as adolescents get older and peer pressure becomes a more predominant factor. This is why parents should rely on really knowing who their children’s friends are.

It may be helpful to invite your children’s friends to your home as a means to know them and to get acquainted with their parents for networking. Try to avoid criticizing your child’s friends. Acknowledge that these friends are an increasingly important part of your child’s support system as he or she tries to define his or her own identity. Realize that your child also balances peer pressure as you encourage him or her to develop independent thinking.

Work with your child in playing out the consequences of choices so that he or she may avoid grave mistakes. P300 is brain surface electrical activity that is most strongly picked up in the parietal lobes. It is measured by an electroencephalogram (EEG), which is a procedure for which electrodes are attached at different parts of the scalp. P300 is involved in evaluating situations and decision-making processes. A blunted P300 is associated in adolescents with alcohol use and is found to be highly heritable. Its effects are found independent of the adverse effects of alcohol use.












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