Have you noticed a change in your behavior? A sharp drop in your grades? Have you had unexplained accidents? Gotten in trouble with the police?
Don't write it off a typical teen behavior. Your parents and teachers shouldn't dismiss it, and neither should you. You may have a problem with drugs or alcohol.
So, how can you find out if you need help? Try checking yourself by taking this short quiz:
¢ Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?
¢ Do you ever try to stop drinking or drink less - and fail?
¢ Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
¢ Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?
¢ Do you ever get drunk when you drink even when you don't mean to?
¢ Do you ever have memory loss after a night of drinking?
¢ Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or to get rid of a hangover?
¢ Have you ever been in a car driven by someone, including yourself, who was drunk or high on drugs?
¢ Have you ever gotten into trouble using alcohol or drugs?
¢ What are your family's beliefs or values around drugs and alcohol?
¢ Is there a pattern of family substance abuse? Do you ever drink or do drugs with your family?
One "yes" response suggests a possible problem. More than one means you should get help - from parents, teachers or your doctor - ASAP.
How can recreational use of "highs" get out of control so quickly? Let's start where most kids do - with alcohol.
Alcohol is almost always the first drug of choice for teens. Many begin drinking at an early age; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-third of teenagers report having had their first drink before age 13.
Still, a 1998 survey by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that you're widely misinformed about alcohol. Nearly one-third of teens mistakenly believed that a 12-ounce can of beer contains less alcohol than a standard shot of distilled spirits, like scotch or whiskey. Eight in 10 thought there was nothing wrong with underage drinking as long as you were responsible about the amount you consumed.
That's a problem, because here's something you probably weren't taught in health class: If you have a family history of alcoholism, you have a 50 percent risk of becoming an alcoholic. When you drink large amounts of alcohol, your brain not only reacts, it changes, increasing your susceptibility to alcohol throughout life. And if you start drinking heavily when you're very young - say, 12 or 13 years old -you're seven times more likely to develop a dependence on alcohol later in life.
And some parents may not be helping the situation. Often parents condone their kids' drinking, regarding it as a "lesser evil" than drugs. Despite the fact that 1.6 million teens need treatment for alcohol abuse, a 1997 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation survey found that 56 percent of adults cited drugs as the biggest problem facing you and your friends; only 8 percent mentioned alcohol.
For more information, resources and interactive forums on substance abuse issues, visit www.silenttreatment.info. Take the reader survey at http://www.silenttreatment.info/readers-survey.htm.