Tobacco, Drugs and Depression in Teenagers

As much as we wish to protect our children forever, sometimes they will face difficult life choices. During their teen years, they may be tempted to use drugs, tobacco or alcohol. Some teenagers may become depressed for a variety of reasons. These problems can seem severe and parents need to be there to help them navigate through the tough times.

Tobacco, Drugs and Alcohol Guidelines

Drug abuse is a serious problem that can lead to serious, even fatal, consequences. Research suggests that nearly 25 percent of adolescents have used drugs, with 16- to 18-year-olds serving as the peak ages for drinking and drug abuse.

Teens whose parents regularly communicate with them about the dangers of drugs have a decreased risk of using tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. Following are some tips for addressing drugs, alcohol and tobacco use with your teen:

  • Set a good example. If you smoke, drink heavily or use drugs, you are teaching your child that these behaviors are acceptable.
  • Teach your child that drugs, tobacco and alcohol can harm their bodies, and that it's OK to say "no."
  • Teach your child how to avoid situations where others may be drinking, smoking or using drugs.
  • Know who your child's friends are, and don't allow your child to attend parties where there is no adult supervision.
  • Encourage your child to become involved in extra-curricular activities at school, a church youth group or other programs that provide opportunities for teens to socialize in a fun and safe environment.

Depression and Suicide

It is common for teens to occasionally feel unhappy. However, when the unhappiness lasts for more than two weeks and the teen experiences other symptoms, then he or she may be suffering from depression.

Depression: What to Look for

There are many reasons why teenagers become unhappy. High-stress environments can lead to depression. Teens can develop feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy over school performance, social interaction, sexual orientation or family life. If friends, family or things that the teen usually enjoys don't help to improve his or her sadness or sense of isolation, there's a good chance that he or she is depressed.

Often, depressed teens will display a striking change in their thinking and behavior. The following are the major signs of depression in adolescents:

  • Sadness, anxiety or a feeling of hopelessness.
  • Loss of interest in food or compulsive overeating that results in rapid weight loss or gain.
  • Staying awake at night and sleeping during the day.
  • Withdrawal from friends.
  • Rebellious behavior, a sudden drop in grades or skipping school.
  • Complaints of pain including headaches, stomachaches, low-back pain or fatigue.
  • Use of alcohol or drugs and promiscuous sexual activity.
  • A preoccupation with death and dying.

Suicide Facts

Suicide is a serious problem within the teen population. Adolescent suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth and young adults in the United States. If you suspect your teen is depressed, tell your child's healthcare professional and seek help right away.


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