Fact Sheet Index

General Statistics: Despite the fact that federal spending on the drug war increased from $1.65 billion in 1982 to $17.7 billion in 1999, more than half of the students in the United States in 1999 tried an illegal drug before they graduated from high school. Additionally, 65% have tried cigarettes by 12th grade and 35% are current smokers, and 62% of twelfth graders and 25% of 8th graders in 1999 report having been drunk at least once.

[Source: Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy: Budget Summary (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 1992), pp. 212-214; Office of National Drug Control Policy, National Drug Control Strategy: 2000 Annual Report (Washington DC: US Government Printing Office, 2000), p. 97, figure 4-2; Johnston, L., Bachman, J. & O’Malley, P., Monitoring the Future: National Results on Adolescent Drug Use Overview of Key Findings 1999, (Washington, DC: NIDA, 2000), pp. 3-6.]

One of the behavioral issues facing many parents with adolescents today is the high rate of drug and alcohol experimentation. Parents tend to avoid this behavioral and health issue more than any other when it comes to their teenagers. It is difficult for parents to face the idea that a child could be experimenting with mood-altering substances. The tendency to ignore signs and symptoms of substance abuse can delay treatment significantly. The longer you wait to deal with a teen who is experimenting with alcohol or drugs, the more intractable and serious the problem can become.

The more subtle behavioral signs of alcohol or drug use are:

Secretive behaviors
Change in personality or baseline mood
Drop in grades
Dropping old friends and getting “new” friends, whom they often do not introduce to parents
Change in participation in extracurricular activities
Paraphernalia found, even if child claims it belongs “to a friend”

There are also a number of signs of intoxication that are related to a particular substance. These can vary in intensity, depending on level of intoxication.

Signs of alcohol intoxication may include:

Slurred speech or difficulty expressing a thought intelligibly
Lack of coordination, poor balance
Can’t walk a straight line
Can’t focus on your eyes
Red eyes or flushed face
Morning headaches, nausea, weakness, or sweatiness
Odor of alcohol on breath or in sweat

Signs of marijuana use:

Bloodshot eyes
Smell in hair or on clothing (sweet, pungent odor)
Munchies or sudden appetite
Wetting lips or excessive thirst (known as “cotton mouth”)
Avoiding eye contact when you challenge the teenager
Burned or sooty fingers (from “joints” or “roaches” burning down)
A parent may also find evidence such as seeds, often in devises used to clean marijuana (Frisbees are a typical tool used for this purpose) or they may find items used as makeshift smoking devices (bongs made out of toilet paper rolls and aluminum foil for example)

Signs of cocaine use:
Jumpy, nervous behavior
Excessively talkative, rapid speech
Pupils dilated (enlarged) in well-lit room
Runny nose or bloody nose (no cold or other illness associated)
Periods of high energy followed by long sleep or exhaustion

Signs of amphetamine use:

Unusually elated (manic)
Jumpy, shaky hands, restlessness
Fast speech, possibly incoherent
Poor appetite and/or weight loss
Periods of sleeplessness, followed by long periods of “catch up” sleep
Poor attention span

Signs of Inhalant Use:
The types of inhalants used might be found in your household, such as glue, paints, paint thinners, Whiteout, gas, and aerosol chemicals. If you notice these items missing from their proper place, in the child’s room, or suddenly emptied, this could be a sign your child is using these extremely dangerous and deadly substances.

Aggressive or hostile behavior
Violent outbursts
Moves slowly, as if lethargic (“drugged” appearance)
Slurred speech
Inability to focus
Lack of coordination
Trouble moving
Unable to speak intelligibly

When does abuse become addiction?

Loss of control or choice of use (drug-seeking behavior)
Withdrawal symptoms between episodes of use
Stealing to get money to obtain substances
Dropping grades
Changing friends, and new friends are very different from old ones
Secretive behavior (whispering on phone, locking bedroom door and taking a long time to answer)
Interferes with family and other personal relationships
Hiding use; lying and covering up; sense of shame
Sense that the adolescent will “do anything” to get high again (disregards consequences)

Statistics on alcohol and drug use from the Centers for Disease Control (Data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance-United States, 1997. MMWR 1998;47 (No. SS-3)

Alcohol Use: Nationwide, 79.1% of students had had at least 1 drink of alcohol during their lifetime. Overall, Hispanic and white students (83.1% and 81.3%, respectively) were significantly more likely than black students (73.0%) to have had at least 1 drink of alcohol during their lifetime. Half (50.8%) of all students had had at least 1 drink of alcohol during the 30 days preceding the survey (ie, current alcohol use). Overall, male students (37.3%) were significantly more likely than female students (28.6%) to report episodic heavy drinking. This significant difference was identified for all racial/ethnic subgroups and for grade 11.

Marijuana Use: Nationwide, 47.1% of students had used marijuana during their lifetime.

Cocaine Use: Nationwide, 8.2% of students had used some form of cocaine (eg, powder, “crack,” or “freebase”) during their lifetime.

Other Illegal Drug Use: Nationwide, 17.0% of students had used other illegal drugs during their lifetime (eg, LSD {lysergic acid diethylamide}, PCP {phencyclidine}, “ecstasy” {methylenedioxymethamphetamine}, mushrooms, “speed” {a stimulant, especially an amphetamine}, “ice” {methamphetamine}, or heroin). White and Hispanic students (19.1% and 17.5%, respectively) were significantly more likely than black students (3.4%) to have ever used other illegal drugs.

Inhalant Use: 16.0% of students nationwide had sniffed glue, breathed the contents of aerosol spray cans, or inhaled paint sprays to become intoxicated during their lifetime (ie, inhalant use).

Aspen Education Group has a number of programs that can help pre-adolescent and adolescent children who have self-defeating behaviors related to alcohol and substance abuse. These intensive programs can quickly narrow down the issues your child is experiencing to help him or her on a positive life path.

Aspen Achievement Academy is an outstanding program for adolescents with substance abuse problems. All students receive drug and alcohol education and those that require it participate in drug and alcohol groups and twelve step meetings. Talk to a program representative for more information.

Passages to Recovery is a substance abuse treatment and recovery program set in the wilderness. It integrates the philosophy of the 12 steps with traditional therapy and the healing power of the wilderness. The program educates students on the detrimental effects of chemical addition as it relates to their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Talk to a program representative for more information.