Health Resources | Parents & Caregivers

Q: Understanding the effects of heroin use: what are its short-term effects?
A: The short-term effects of heroin abuse appear soon after a single dose and disappear in a few hours. After an injection of heroin, the user reports feeling a surge of euphoria ("rush") accompanied by a warm flushing of the skin, a dry mouth, and heavy extremities. Following this initial euphoria, the user goes "on the nod," an alternately wakeful and drowsy state. Mental functioning becomes clouded due to the depression of the central nervous system. Other effects included slowed and slurred speech, slow gait, constricted pupils, droopy eyelids, impaired night vision, vomiting, constipation. Long-term effects of heroin appear after repeated use for some period of time. Chronic users may develop collapsed veins, infection of the heart lining and valves, abscesses, cellulitis, and liver disease. Pulmonary complications, including various types of pneumonia, may result from the poor health condition of the abuser, as well as from heroin's depressing effects on respiration. In addition to the effects of the drug itself, street heroin may have additives that do not really dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. With regular heroin use, tolerance develops. This means the abuser must use more heroin to achieve the same intensity or effect.

Q: What are its long-term effects?
A: As higher doses are used over time, physical dependence and addiction develop. With physical dependence, the body has adapted to the presence of the drug and withdrawal symptoms may occur if use is reduced or stopped. Withdrawal, which in regular abusers may occur as early as a few hours after the last administration, produces drug craving, restlessness, muscle and bone pain, insomnia, diarrhea and vomiting, cold flashes with goose bumps ("cold turkey"), kicking movements ("kicking the habit"), and other symptoms. Major withdrawal symptoms peak between 48 and 72 hours after the last dose and subside after about a week. Sudden withdrawal by heavily dependent users who are in poor health can be fatal.

Q: Answering the question, "Have you ever done drugs?"
A: The issue isn't about your past. It's about your children's future. What's important now is that your kids understand that you don't want them to use drugs. For many parents, a child's "Did you ever use drugs?" question is a tough one to answer. Unless the answer is no, most parents stutter and stammer through an answer and leave their kids feeling like they haven't learned anything — or even worse, that their parents are hypocrites. Yes, it's difficult to know what to say. You want your kids to follow your rules and you don't want them to hold your history up as an example to follow — or as a tool to use against you. But the conversation doesn't have to be awkward, and you can use it to your advantage by turning it into a teachable moment. Some parents who used drugs in the past choose to lie about it — but they risk losing their credibility if their kids ever discover the truth. Many experts recommend that you give an honest answer — but you don't have to tell your kids every detail. As with conversations about sex, some details should remain private. Avoid giving your child more information than she asked for. And ask her a lot of questions to make sure you understand exactly why she's asking about your drug history. Limit your response to that information. The discussion provides a great opportunity to speak openly about what tempted you to drugs, why drugs are dangerous, and why you want your kids to avoid making the same mistake. The following are good examples of the tone you can take and wording you can use: "I took drugs because some of my friends used them, and I thought I needed to in order to fit in. In those days, people didn't know as much as they do now about all the bad things that can happen when you take drugs." 2. "Everyone makes mistakes and trying drugs was one of my biggest mistakes ever. I'll do anything to help you avoid making the same stupid decision that I made when I was your age." 3. "I started drinking when I was young and, as you can see, it's been a battle ever since. Because of my drinking, I missed a big part of growing up, and every day I have to fight with myself so it doesn't make me miss out on even more - my job, my relationships, and most importantly, my time with you. I love you too much to watch you make the same mistakes I've made."

Q: Parents and caregivers often feel like they're way out of touch with their teens. So, what it's like being a young adult today? Here are the top five trends you should be aware of.
A: Teen Trends: Inside the mind of today's teen

  1. They're stressed. Today's teens are stressed out. Factors include school work (they have more than ever. Sure the internet speeds things up but that just means that they're given even more work), college pressures, advanced placement courses in high school, and being overscheduled. The (stereotypical) Gen X slackers they are not.

  2. They're hyper-sexualized. Things like mini-skirts in schools, guys taking Creatine to get bulked up for sports, Real World MTV hook ups with young adults sleeping with strangers in each episode, online dating sites and Internet pornography... This stuff is in their face every day. Teens are trying to act older, while older people are trying to act younger. So you've got kids trying to be adults, and adults (like Baby Boomers in particular) trying to be kids. It makes for a weird dynamic - and can confuse the teen as to who's the role model? Surprisingly, kids are more mature about things than you'd expect.

  3. Friends are the new family. "Well duh," you say, "a person's friends have been important to every generation." But this cohort seems to equally value their circle of friends as their secondary family. They are far more group oriented than Gen Xers. Even if you think about Sesame Street, the show Xers grew up with ("We're all unique and different") compared to Barney, the show Gen Y grew up with ("Everybody is equal -- We're all the same.") Gen Y tends to be more conformist than Xers and Boomers were in their youth.

  4. Traditional family has been redefined. Many teens report very close relationships with their parents, rather than rebellious relationships. Parents are becoming more like a friend than a parent in some cases (think Gilmore Girls -- or a dad blasting hip hop from his car while he and his son sing along.) Gen Y typically cites their mom or dad as their role models -- rather than celebrities of years past. Also, the family unit itself has changed: more single dads/moms, and stay at home dads, gay parents, parents who are dating, adopted siblings, etc.

  5. Diversity isn't something they're taught - it's their reality. This generation is one-third non-Caucasian. They sometimes take diversity for granted. Just witness the infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson SuperBowl incident - 50 years ago the scandal would've been over the interracial flirting, not just the breast-baring moment. Today, you've got popular shows like Degrassi where the white cheerleader flirts with the black football player, and coming out as gay in junior high/high school is normal. This is not to say every teen is 100% comfortable with it -- obviously prejudice still exists -- but attitudes towards these issues have certainly relaxed. "Live and let live -- as long as you're not hurting anyone" is the emerging philosophy. Source: Ben Grill, Sachs Insights

Q: When drugs lead to dishonesty: Believe it or not, teens are pretty good at tricking their parents. How do they do this?
A: We asked real teens to share their secrets. If anyone knows the tricks of the trade of being a teen, it would be teens themselves. Read on, parents, there's a lot to learn.

  1. When the Cat is Away...: A teen insists on going to a friend's house for the night when the parents are going out for the evening. When the parents are gone, the teen then returns to the unsupervised house with a group of friends. (This happens most often on holidays, anniversaries and other special occasions.)

  2. The Cameo Appearance: When attending a school dance, the teen is allowed to leave the dance at any point in the evening. Many couples take their pictures at the dance to prove that they attended it and then go to an empty house or secluded area to party. (Setting an early curfew on a problem teen will, therefore, not prevent problem behavior.)

  3. Wide Open Spaces: Community festivals are not highly patrolled activities, and teens can leave the premises at any time to use substances in nearby woods, parking lots, or behind nearby buildings. They can also be taken to parties by older students who can drive. (It might sound strange for older students to take an interest in younger teens, but it does happen frequently.)

  4. After-School Freedom: After school when many parents are still at work, teens can congregate at the empty house and do as they please. (Problem behavior is not limited to the weekends only!)

  5. The Deserted Forest: When walking to a nearby friend's house, teens can meet in deserted secluded areas (such as woods) and use substances or engage in sexual behavior. (This can take place in broad daylight especially when the teen has no dependable transportation.)

  6. School Functions Gone Wrong: At school functions (such as school games or meets) or just when staying after school, teens can easily sneak away to go use substances in the unsupervised, secluded areas.

  7. Sleep-Over Sneak Outs: Although the parents may be home at a sleep-over, teens can sneak out of the house late at night and either walk somewhere or be picked up in a car down the street.

  8. Turning Water into Wine: An adolescent can steal alcohol from his parent's liquor supply and then, if necessary, the teen can make up the difference in the bottle's volume by adding water.

  9. Not Your Usual Math Homework: Although many parents are pleased when their teen goes to a friend's house to do homework, this might not actually be what the teen will be doing. (This is one of the most frequently used lies used by teens to get out of then confines of supervised homes.)

  10. A Change of Plans: A Change of Plans: Teens can say that they are going to a house to spend the night and then “change plans” at the last minute allowing the parents no time to check up on them. Many of these may seem rather strange and ridiculous, but when a child is addicted to drugs or wishes to engage in risky behavior, he/she will do anything to continue his abuse including lying, stealing and plotting.

Parents: Do not underestimate the abilities of your teenager.© 2000, The Student Congress of the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater Cincinnati.

Q: Is your child using drugs?
A: The mood swings and unpredictable behavior of the pre-teen and teen years often make it hard to tell if a child is using drugs — but there are warning signs you can watch out for. If your child exhibits one or more of the following behaviors or moods, drugs may have become a part of his or her life: She's withdrawn, depressed, tired, or careless about her personal grooming. - He's hostile, uncooperative, and frequently breaks curfews. - Her relationships with family members have deteriorated. - He's hanging around with a new group of friends. - Her grades have slipped, and her school attendance is irregular. - He's lost interest in hobbies, sports, and other favorite activities. - Her eating and sleeping patterns have changed; she's up at night and sleeps during the day. - He has a hard time concentrating. - Her eyes are red-rimmed and her nose is runny — but she doesn't have allergies or a cold. - Household money has been disappearing. - You have found any of the following in your home: pipes, rolling papers, small medicine bottles, eye drops, butane lighters, homemade pipes, or bongs (pipes that use water as a filter) made from soda cans or plastic beverage containers. ; Some of these indicators can be caused by emotional problems or physical illness. Discuss the possibility with your child's doctor and, if necessary, take him in for a physical exam. If illness is not the problem, it's time to choose a course of action.

Make an appointment to see a mental health professional who specializes in substance abuse. Rushford’s child and adolescent division can be reached by calling 800.542.4971. Tell your child if she doesn't attend the appointment, you'll have to make important decisions about her future without her present. If your child still refuses to cooperate (and this is not unusual), you can contact the juvenile court system or inform his school that he has a serious drug problem and ask for their support. They'll advise you on the most prudent course of action. In an extreme situation (if, for instance, your child is deeply rooted in the addiction phase of alcohol or drug use), you'll need to consider placement in a residential drug treatment program. The problem is too great to handle on your own. If you know your child is using alcohol or drugs.

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