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Homeless Runaway Teens and Drug Abuse

Monday, February 18th, 2013

Are these scenarios familiar?

Scenario 1: There has been no real communication in the house, only bickering, scolding, blaming, sarcasm, hostility and anger. Father is alcoholic, mother feels she was cheated out of a much better future.

Scenario 2: Both parents are successful professionals, too busy to spend a few hours with the children even during week-ends. Teen is well-provided with all material and financial needs. Friends fill the emotional gap so and s/he needs to sustain their acceptance and approval

Scenario 3: Teen is in deep trouble:  a) She is two months pregnant/His girlfriend is two months pregnant. S/He dreads the parents’ reactions. b) Teen has been skipping classes and neglecting class requirements.  The teacher told her/him that s/he would not graduate by the end of the school year; c) Teen sold her/his parents’ antique china jar to pay gambling debts/buy drugs.

These are but a few of the reasons why teens run away from home. The common pressing factors are: the feeling of being neglected, of failing to meet behavior standards of exacting parents, and the need for peer approval, hence,  peer pressure.

The duration of being away from home varies, depending on what the parents will do. If the parental response to the situation is positive and constructive, the teenage child could be safely back home in a matter of days or weeks at most. If not, the runaway kid could become an added statistic to the millions of homeless teenagers on the streets.

Teen Homelessness and Its Risks

What is homelessness?  A regular and fixed place to sleep that adequately provides for one’s needs is the prevailing criterion of having a home. Hence, a shelter and a welfare hotel do not qualify for a home, much less, temporary and makeshift structures in public places. While the criterion is limited to the physical structure that protects one from the elements of the night on a regular basis, the use of the word “home” connotes much more.  Homeless teens do not have the constancy of a warm bed, regular hot meals, a cleansing bathroom, the sense of safety and most of all, the access to the love, guidance and protection of their parents.

Homeless teens drop out of school, go hungry, sleep much less if at all, get exposed to the elements, become highly susceptible to sickness, do not have reliable persons to run to when they need help, get exposed and become susceptible to violence, alcohol, drugs, theft, prostitution, rape, arrests, and all sorts of dangers on the streets.

Drug Problem: A Consequence of Homelessness among the Youth

Drug use and abuse are almost unavoidable for teens who have been homeless for months. The question of whether homelessness precedes drug abuse or the other way around would seem less of an issue as far as teenage runaways are concerned.  One can logically surmise that drug problem would be more of a consequence than a cause of homelessness among teens except for special cases. Teens cannot have easy access to illegal drugs due to parental control and to limited finances.  Only after they free themselves of such control and are free to make their own devices to access money could they indulge in drug use and abuse. So they run away from home.

Studies Conducted on Homelessness and Drug Abuse among the Youth

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration estimated that 38% of homeless people (mostly older groups) were dependent on alcohol, while 26% (mostly the youth and young adults) abused other substances.  Studies conducted with National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) funding presented a picture of homeless teens in the U.S. Among 432 homeless teens in Los Angeles, 71% were into alcohol or drug abuse. A nationwide survey among 600 homeless youths revealed  that 50% of those who tried to commit suicide were under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. At the Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina,  researchers found that homeless youths had significantly higher rates of drug abuse and more serious drug use compared to those in shelters and those living at home. It was also found that 75% of the homeless teens were using marijuana, 33% were into stimulants, analgesic and hallucinogens and stimulants, while 25% were using forms of cocaine, sedatives and inhalants.

The Teenage Push from Home

Ages 12 to 17 years are vulnerable periods in a youngster’s life. In transit from being a child to turning adult,  teens are experiencing changes in all aspects of their being: physical, emotional, psychological, social and mental. These are years of feeling misunderstood, of uncertainty and insecurity, of trial and error and of instability of self-concept. They want to be left alone yet they want attention and acceptance. They want freedom from parental control, yet they sorely need guidance and support.  In this state or personal inner turmoil, a teenage child might decide to bolt away from home, completely unprepared for the realities of homelessness and street life. How to cope? There is just too much too soon. In order to adapt, the young runaway has to learn the ways of his new world and of his newfound friends. Alcohol and drug abuse is almost inevitable.  Drugs become a habit,  a reliable bolster. In addition, drugs could be the ticket for acceptance by the runaway teen’s new family of sorts. But once the teen gets hooked on drugs, it would be very difficult to get her/him off the habit, not while s/he remains on the street.


Any program of interventions aimed at helping homeless teens needs to involve  the teen’s families since the predisposing problem that pushed the teen out of the house is often family-related. It will have to be a joint effort among relevant government agencies (like NIDA, the Social Welfare, the Police, etc) and the parents in whose care and home the child needs to return. The program should aim at taking the teen off the streets back to the security of the home and the protection of his/her parents and put him/her back to school. It has to be planned with full involvement of the teen and the parents. Supportive individual and family counseling has to be provided throughout the whole process.








Facts and Stats on Substance Abuse by Employees

Friday, February 15th, 2013

The image that comes to mind when talking about people who abuse drugs is often someone who is incapable of holding down a job and who slinks around shady parts of town looking for drugs. But the facts belie that stereotype.

According to a nationwide study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA), 70% of all drug abusers in the country are currently employed.

These drug abusers are 10 times more likely to miss work, and 3 times more likely to be less productive than an average worker. They are 5 times more likely to file for workers’ comp and almost 4 times as likely to get into a workplace accident. They cost, on average, twice as much as an average worker with regards to their healthcare costs. And due to all those reasons they tend to change jobs almost 3 times more than the rest of the workforce.

Top Drugs for Abusers

Out of almost 12 million drug tests done in 2011, almost 3.5% came back positive. And while that is a small number percentage-wise, it is a huge number when talking about employed individuals. Because that 3.5% represents about 400,000 workers.

Marijuana was the top drug that people were busted for, with about half of that 3.5% of positive results being for marijuana.

That was followed by prescription drug abuse, which is a concern for both young and older employees. Oxycodone and opiate-based prescription drugs were the top two groups among prescription drugs abused. Prescription drug abuse seems to be a concern mostly for urban, white collar employees. All together they made up about 30% of all the positive drug test results.

Amphetamine and Methamphetamine were the third most common group, making up about 15-20% of positive results.

Also on the rise, and a concern for mostly young people, are synthetic drugs like synthetic marijuana and synthetic cocaine.

While it may be a tough reality to face, it is obvious that the American workforce is infected with the nationwide plague of drug abuse and the only way to eradicate it is with comprehensive drug testing policies.

Read more about the interview here.

10 Important Things to Know About Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

With the amount of information available to us these days, we might think we know enough about teenage prescription drug abuse to keep our kids safe. Perhaps to a certain extent we are indeed well informed but substance abuse is one social problem we cannot afford to be complacent about. Constant vigilance is the order of the day. Are we still updated? Are we aware of what kids these days may be in danger of getting their hands on? Check out the following list of important things to know about teenage prescription drug abuse (not in any particular order).


Between 1998 and 2008 prescription drug abuse went up 400%. Prescription drugs are simply very easy to get. Doctors are writing prescriptions left and right. Left-over prescription pills end up lying around in the house, within easy access of every family member and their friends who come to visit. In fact this is how 70% of all prescription drug abusers get them; from friends and relatives. One out of every six teenagers said they have taken a prescription drug at least once in the past year (just for kicks). Another recent survey reports that 15% of all high school seniors have used prescription drugs for non medical use and that Vicodin is the top pharm drug of choice.

Nip it in the bud

Parents should not be too ready to dismiss instances of their child’s early experimentation with alcohol and/or marijuana. They are called “gateway rugs”. Kids who are drunk or high on marijuana at a party are less likely to exercise good judgment when presented with pills that somebody swiped from their medicine cabinets at home. Parents should know that the younger their kids get introduced to substance use, the higher the likelihood of developing dependence as they enter adulthood.

Proper management of prescriptions

Proper management of medications can prevent the illicit use of prescription drugs. Always know how many pills there are supposed to be at any particular time and know exactly when a refill is due. Running out of pills way before the expected time is a sure indication that somebody else in the household is using them. Kids should have no access to their parents’ or other siblings’ prescription medications. These pills should be locked away and not left lying around on kitchen counters etc. If any of the kids have been prescribed a medication, the parents should closely monitor their intake. Even some OTC drugs need to be watched, like cough syrup containing dextromethorphan.

Proper disposal of leftover medication

Any and all leftover meds should be disposed of properly. Some teens have been known to check the trash for discarded medication, so parents need to be more careful how they get rid of unwanted prescription pills. Remember to remove the labels from prescription bottles to prevent unauthorized refills.

Educate yourself

Prescription drugs can be categorized into the following:

Stimulants – typically prescribed as treatment for ADHD, narcolepsy and obesity. Examples are Ritalin (methylphenidate) and Dexedrine (dextroamphetamine).

CNS depressants – central nervous system meds that alleviate sleeplessness and anxiety. These include Nembutal (pentobarbital sodium), Xanax (alprazolam) and Valium (diazepam).

Opioids – are morphine-like meds for pain treatment. Examples are OxyContin (oxycodone), Darvon (propoxyphene), Demerol (meperidine), Lomotil (diphenoxylate), Vicodin (hydrocodone) and Dilaudid (hydromorphone).

Keep up with the times

Be familiar with the current buzz words that kids use to refer to prescription drugs. Understanding prescription drug lingo can help alert responsible adults to whatever the kids around them are up to. For example, when teenagers talk about “dollies” they are probably not referring to the latest Barbie. They really mean methadone. “School boy” does not mean that cute new kid on the block, it’s their code for codeine, and “Miss Emma” is not some respectable music teacher, it is actually morphine. Following is a list of street names to watch out for:

Stimulants or uppers or “pep pills”

Dexies or Des for dexadrine



Black hollies

Bennies for Benzedrine

Black beauties

Depressants or downers or ludes/barbs/”drunk pills”


Reds or red devils

Yellow jackets



Blue devils

Blues or V’s for valium

If they are talking about any combination of these uppers and downers, they will be referring to it as a “set up”.

Protect our kids by talking to them

Engage teens in family discussions (not lectures) about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Surveys indicate that parents tend to talk less about the abuse of prescription medications compared to illegal drugs. Kids need to understand that prescription drug abuse is just as dangerous. Just because these pills came from medical doctors it does not make them any less harmful when used improperly. Those who do not pay attention to their own attitude towards using over-the- counter and prescription drugs without a proper prescription are sending the wrong message to their own kids.  Kids should be made to understand that it is never safe to experiment with any kind of medication, and that the risks are magnified when these drugs are mixed with alcohol. Give them an “action plan” to be used if/when they are offered drugs in school or at a party and practice it with them if necessary.

Peer  factor

Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. Kids often have an overwhelming need to belong and would often do things against their better judgment when faced with a challenge from friends as a show of loyalty. It is always a good idea to get to know your kids’ friends and become friends with them and their families as well.

Warning signs

Drug abuse is never without warning signs. Parents just need to be aware what to look for:

if their teenagers suddenly have a new set of friends it wouldn’t hurt to ask about the old ones;
if school performance suddenly becomes erratic when they used to do consistently well before;

if they lose interest in their usual extra-curricular activities and hobbies

if they become paranoid, overly aggressive or defensive about their things and their activities;

if their grooming habits change; they reek of alcohol/marijuana or become heavy users of mouthwash or perfumes to mask the smell of alcohol/marijuana;

sudden weight loss or weight gain, marked change in sleeping and eating habits;

if they begin borrowing or stealing money

if they start frequenting the doctor’s clinic for various medical issues to ask for new prescriptions

Act fast

If you spot warning signs, it is best to act on them fast before things get worse. Adolescent brains are still developing and this process gets arrested by early exposure to alcohol or prescription drugs or illegal drugs. Long-term health consequences are never good and are best prevented from progressing. Acting fast does not mean forcing your child to take a drug test just because they start hanging out with someone you don’t know. Acting fast in this case means asking about this new friend right away, not after several weeks when your child is already exhibiting some behavioral changes.





Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Prescription drug abuse occurs when medicines are taken without a doctor’s prescription or are taken in dosages not advised by the doctor. This is becoming a common practice among teenagers and reasons for indulgence include getting high, treating mild pain or nervousness, weight loss etc. Examples of prescription drug abuse include drinking cough medicine from the medicine cabinet at home and taking pain killers meant for parents. Over the years, teenage prescription drug abuse has become a major cause of concern. In the last 10 year period itself, there has been an 85% increase in prescription drug related deaths in the US [1]. With more than one-third of prescription drug users being teenagers, the number of teenage deaths has also been on the rise.

Commonly abused prescription drugs

Commonly abused prescription drugs can be divided into 3 broad categories:

  • Opioids or pain relievers – This includes drugs like Fentanyl (strong pain killer used in post surgery pain), Morphine (powerful painkiller and highly addictive), Oxycodone HCL (pain reliever for alleviating moderate to severe pain) and Codeine [2]. These drugs go by street names such as Hillbilly heroin, Percs, Happy Pills, Vikes etc.
  • Central nervous system depressants – This includes tranquilizers like Barbiturates, Benzodiazepine (found in Valium), Flunitrazepam and sedatives like Zolpidem and Zaleplon. Their street names are Candy, Downers, Barbs, Red birds, Phennies, A-minus, Zombie pills etc. [3]
  • Stimulants – This includes anti depressants like Amphetamines (used for treating ADHD and sleeping disorders like narcolepsy), Dextroamphetamine and Methylphenidate. Common street names include Skippy, Vitamin R, Bennies, Black Beauties, Speed, Uppers etc.

Harmful effects of prescription drug abuse

Prescription drugs have many harmful effects which can cause permanent damage and even death.

  • Opioids like Codeine cause difficulty in breathing and swallowing, irregular heart beat and seizures in extreme cases. Morphine is a highly addictive drug which can cause psychological changes. Serious side effects include depression, unconsciousness and death. Fenatynyl can cause weakness, drowsiness, fainting and coma.
  • Central Nervous System Depressants like Barbiturates cause paranoia, high degree of excitability or irritation, suicidal thoughts and memory impairment. Benzodiazepines can disrupt motor senses, cause lethargy, impair memory, cause vertigo, stuttering, constipation, lack of hunger, vomiting etc.
  • Stimulants – They are highly addictive as they mimic the reaction caused by other illegal drugs. Amphetamines can cause panic attacks, delirium and even heart failure. Methylphenidate can cause high blood pressure, paranoia, psychosis, heart problems and strokes.

Signs of teenage prescription drug abuse

Teenage prescription drug abuse is easy to identify as they have some common side effects. These include change in sleep habits, fluctuation in energy levels, moodiness, decrease in concentration levels (identifiable through a drop in grades), loss of appetite, weight loss, insecurity and secretiveness. If the teenager in question starts to exhibit more than a few of the above symptoms, then chances are that he or she might be involved in some kind of drug abuse. In such a case, it is better to err on the side of caution and a prescription drug abuse test should be undertaken.

Prescription drug abuse screening and tests

There are many ways to do a prescription drug abuse test. Blood tests are a quick and easy way of checking for abuse. Since the teenager should be checked at the time of suspected abuse, home multi-drug testing kits should be used. Drug abuse screening tests (DAST) are easily accessible and can be used. Another way of performing prescription drug abuse screening is to check the medicine cabinet at home. Missing medicines and too many empty medicine bottles in the trash are important signs of prescription drug abuse.

Teenage prescription drug abuse has shown a disturbing upward trend in recent years. Simple steps taken at the right time can prevent the problem from gaining uncontrollable magnitude.





5 Ways to Talk With Your Kids about Alcohol and Drugs

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to teach and protect their kids. But figuring out what to say can be a tough challenge, especially when tackling topics about drugs and alcohol. The five following ways will help you have effective conversations with your kids and keep them free from drugs and alcohol.

1. Start Talking with Your Kids Early and Often

National studies show that the average age when kids begin using alcohol is 11; and some may already be abusing drugs at the age of 12 or 13. Start having conversations and teach your children about values and expectations while they are still young. Make sure your child knows right from the start that you think it’s important to avoid alcohol and drugs to stay safe. By starting early and talking regularly, your child will get used to sharing information and opinions with you. This will make it easier for you to continue talking as your child gets older.

2. Encourage Responsible Choice

Your child needs to know how using alcohol and drugs can harm the body and cause problems at home and in school. Kids who know the facts are more likely to make good choices. Encourage responsible choices by allowing your kids plenty of opportunities to become a confident decision-maker. As your kids become more skilled at making all kinds of good choices, both of you will feel more secure in their ability to make the right decision concerning alcohol and drugs if and when the time arrives. On the other hand, even if your kids may have tried using drugs and alcohol, you can still talk about making healthy choices and how to say “no” next time.

3. Provide Age-Appropriate Information

Make sure the information that you offer fits the child’s age and stage. A 6 or 7 year old does not need to know what different drugs look like but a 14 year old might need to. To provide clear and age-appropriate information about drugs and alcohol, research things and educate yourselves together. The internet can be a really useful source of age-appropriate information about drugs and alcohol.

4. Establish A Clear Family Position On Drugs and Alcohol

Simply state, “We don’t allow any drug use and children in this family are not allowed to drink alcohol.” If established clearly, these family rules about drugs and alcohol will help children avoid the temptation of using them.

5. Discuss What Makes A Good Friend

Since peer pressure is so important when it comes to kids’ involvement with drugs and alcohol, it makes good sense to talk with your children about what makes a good friend. Help your kids make positive choices by teaching them the characteristics of good friends. Model these characteristics yourself and encourage others in the household to follow them as well. Once you’ve gotten these examples across, your kids will understand that “friends” who pressure them to drink or use drugs aren’t friends at all.




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Answers, comments, information, articles and opinions provided on all TestCountry related webpages are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, counseling, psychological, or other professional advice. You should not use the information on TestCountry for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. You should always speak with your physician or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or nutritional, herbal or homeopathic supplement, rehabilitation or detoxification from any substance abuse or adopting any treatment for a health or drug problem.

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