Washoe Country School District

July 28, 2014

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Substance Abuse / What parents can look for


Nida Teaching Slide Presentations:
(depending on the speed of your computer you may have to wait a while for these to load)
The Neurobiology of Drug Addiction
The Neurobiology of Ecstasy - MDMA

Warning Signs of Substance Abuse

Fact Sheets (PDF Format)

  • a drop in grades
  • poor achievement
  • moods are up and down
  • dishonesty about whereabouts
  • dishonest about a lot of things
  • early cigarette smoking
  • parental defiance
  • red, watery, or glassy eyes
  • uses eye drops to hide red eyes
  • has delinquent friends
  • late or unexplained hours
  • rejection of parental values
  • have found drugs & paraphernalia in his/her possession
  • disappearance of money or possessions
  • defensive about drug use
  • antisocial behavior
  • seems to have drug-using friends
  • often draws pot leaves, drugs, or drug symbols 
Spanish Info Sheet on Meth
English Info Sheet on Meth
3 Things Parents Need to Know about Meth
Warning Signs of Meth
WCSD Safe and Drug Free Newsletter
Meth Resources

Few parents want to believe that their son or daughter uses drugs and/or alcohol, but the reality is that many young people do experiment. Some will just try drugs and stop, some will control their use of illegal substances with varying degrees of success, and some will have addiction absolutely control their frequently shortened lives. 

Some young people are more susceptible than others to addictive disorders. Young people whose families have a history of substance abuse are clearly more "at risk." Youngsters whose background includes emotional, behavioral, or scholastic difficulties are also more prone to addictive difficulties, but problems with drug and alcohol abuse can happen to anyone. We know that some addictions, like alcoholism can be genetically transmitted between generations, but many people with no family history of alcoholism become overwhelmed with alcohol-related difficulties. Addictive disorders often start early with cigarette smoking, followed by marijuana or alcohol. Some kids who continue to seek out other "mild-altering" experiences develop a preference for stimulants (methamphetamine, crystal, speed), others like substances that numb their feelings (narcotics), while others prefer hallucinogens (LSD, etc). Many youngsters become so enthralled with the drug subculture that they will use any drug that is available. 

Most professionals view addictive disorders as progressive health conditions that will continue to become more problematic unless effectively addressed. Like other health problems, catching the problem early is often nearly always best.

Why Are Drugs & Alcohol Used?

The simple answer is that drugs (including alcohol) alter perceptions of reality in ways that often feel pleasant. Drug and alcohol use may temporarily satisfy emotional or social needs for some troubled teens. Many teens view drugs like a Swiss Army Knife, a tool with many functions. Relaxation, pleasure, socialization, avoidance of emotional pain, a way to forget about problems, satisfy curiosity, avoid alienation, find excitement, feel like part of the crowd, go to sleep, wake up, cope with failure, relieve boredom, and / or to simply infuriate their parents. Some people, as we noted above, seem to be biologically or genetically programmed for addictive difficulties.

If Drug or Alcohol Use is Found - What Parents Can Do

There is no easy answer for how to deal with teen drug and alcohol use. A straightforward discussion with your son or daughter may be the best way to start. You may want to seek out the advice of someone you most trust - perhaps a close friend, school counselor, or clergy.

If you've found your son or daughter smoking marijuana or drinking alcohol, it is especially important that you not overreact. Tobacco, marijuana and alcohol are often considered gateway drugs that lead to more serious drug use, but are also substances that may reflect relatively common experimentation that is frequently characteristic of teens. Remember that truly experimental use is brief and that ongoing use in the face of consequences from parents is apt to reflect drug abuse that has become a serious problem. If you feel absolutely confident that your son or daughter has only "experimented" and will not continue, you may need to do little more than clearly state your position regarding abstinence, provide a firm, but short-term consequence, and then closely monitor their behavior using observation and drug testing. However, watch your own tendency to deny the existence of a problem.

When a young person has begun to use methamphetamine, cocaine, or one of the pain killing drugs known as opiates, parents need to seek out professional assistance more quickly due to their potential to be highly addictive. Certainly regular drug testing at home makes sense, but consultation with a substance abuse professional is apt to be extremely important if you discover that your son or daughter is using these highly addictive drugs.

Many, perhaps most, teens have used drugs for several years before their parents became aware of the extent of their use. When considering the gravity of the situation, examine issues like school adjustment, friendship patterns, family communication, their willingness to adhere to family rules, and the degree to which they are willing or driven to take risks. If your teen is more deeply into substance abuse or has other emotional, behavioral, or academic concerns, immediate consultation with a behavioral health or substance abuse professional is apt to be the safest option.

If You Know That The Problem Is Serious

1. This is no time to be a wimp. Don't overreact and lose your temper, but your teenager needs a strong message that drug and alcohol use is not acceptable.

2. A parent support group is likely to be very useful. Consider joining Parents Anonymous or Alanon.

3. Get to know the typical drugs of abuse, what their effects are, and what your adolescent is likely to look like if using a drug.

4. Talk with your teen. Don't lecture, be clear, and keep your message short & to the point. Be open to communication from your teen. 

5. Get to know your kid better. Find out how she or he sees him/herself, where she or he wants his/her life to go, and what's important. Find out what drugs & alcohol do for him/her. Spend time with your son or daughter in recreation and family activities.

6. Learn the names, addresses, and phone numbers of your teen's friends. Get to know the kids if possible. Form a network with the parents of your son/daughters peers. Keep in touch with one another. Don't be put off if other parents don't share your concern about substance abuse.

7. Check your teens whereabouts regularly. Don't be too shocked if you find that another parent is using drugs with them, allows substance abusing parties at their home, or is supplying the kids with drugs and alcohol.

8. If you learn that one of your teen's friends is involved in drugs, don't keep it a secret from that youngsters parents . . . you would probably feel sabotaged if another parent hid that information from you.

9. Use discipline that is apt to be effective. Restrict or eliminate use of a car, take away cellular phones, or beepers, and limit unsupervised free time unless your teen is committed to being 'clean and sober.' Set clear, firm, and reasonable limits. Be consistent.

10. If your son/daughter says that she or he wants to have a sleep-over, check with the other parent to insure that the youngster has permission. If your teen wants to sleep away from home, check to be certain that the other parent will be home and determine if the other parent has the same curfew, values & expectations as you do. Kids often select homes of absent parents for sleep-overs and all-night drug/alcohol parties.

11. Get "Caller ID" and "Anonymous Call Rejection" on the phone line that your youngster uses. Know who is calling your son or daughter. If you question their whereabouts when they go out in the evening, require that they call home from a "land line" phone so that the location they are calling from appears on your "Caller ID." You'll probably want to have "Caller ID" and "Anonymous Call Rejection" on the main phone line to the house as well.

12. Strongly consider encouraging your son or daughter's involvement in a twelve-step self-help support group like A.A. or N.A. (teen group), or a support group provided by the guidance department at your son or daughter's high school. Go with them or link them with a friend or relative so that they don't feel uncomfortable about attending.

13. If other members of the family have a drinking problem, abuse prescription medication, or use illegal drugs, it will be important to deal with these issues at the same time as your son/daughter's use.

14. Kids dealing with substance abuse need to avoid the people, places, and events that have been associated with their use. It is extremely unlikely that your teen will stay sober if they attend unsupervised 'parties' where drugs & alcohol are available.

15. Monitor or remove alcohol from the home if alcohol use is recognized as a problem. Help them locate sober activities. Read #14 again - this is important.

16. Find out where the money is coming from to purchase drugs and/or alcohol. If it's from your ATM card, wallet, or pocketbook, keep them out of reach. Think about the amount of money that your supply your son or daughter for allowance, lunches, gas, etc. Don't be too surprised if you find them stealing from yourself or others to finance their use of drugs and alcohol.

17. Use a home drug test kit to help monitor sobriety. Become aware of how users often "fake out" drug tests and don't get conned. A urine sample that is collected in the early morning will have the widest window for drug detection. The home drug test kits have the clear advantage of allowing for an immediate test result. Be certain that the collection of the urine sample is closely monitored so that your teen has no opportunity to dilute, contaminate, or switch the urine sample. 

18. If left unchecked, the use of drugs will often increase in frequency and intensity. You can anticipate that the types of substances that are abused will progress to more potent types of drugs. You can use regular home drug testing to monitor changes in the types of drugs that are abused and can obtain a "quantified" drug test from the lab to determine if the amount of drug in a person's body is increasing or decreasing over time.

19. If you decide to work with a professional for counseling, be sure to check the credentials and experience of the therapist. Most counselors, psychologists, and psychiatrists are generalists do not have specific expertise in substance abuse. They may actually make the problem worse by addressing the wrong issues. Many substance abuse professionals are members of NAADAC, a professional association, while psychologists with specific expertise in addictions are likely to be credentialed by the American College of Professional Psychology. You will want to insure that a professional that you select is certified or licensed as a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Check with your state or province Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, Board of Psychologist Examiners, or Board of Medical Examiners.

20. If the problem is serious, group counseling has the edge in terms of effectiveness with Intensive Outpatient Groups probably the single most effective method of outpatient treatment. Insist that you as parents are actively involved in the treatment process.

Symptoms of Drug Use

Marijuana - red eyes, reduced concentration, drowsiness, talkativeness, laughter, hunger, euphoria, relaxed, disoriented behavior & dramatic change in lifestyle. 

Alcohol - intoxication, watery glazed eyes, mood swings, slurred speech, unsteady walk, & loss of appetite.

Cocaine - Bright staring shiny eyes, excitation, euphoria, high pulse, higher blood pressure, restlessness, insomnia, appetite loss, dramatic mood change & runny nose.

Methamphetamine - Dilated pupils, bright shiny eyes, excitation, alertness, talkative, increased pulse rate & blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, appetite loss, confusion, paranoia, & sweating. 

Depressants - Constricted pupils, slow breathing & heart rate, slurred speech, disorientation, & drunken-like behavior. 

GHB - Intoxication, increased energy



Quest Counseling and Consulting, Inc……………………….. 786-6880

Washoe County Dept. of Juvenile Services………………….. 325-7800

West Hills…………………………………………………….. 323-0478
Substance Abuse Help line…………………………………… 825-HELP (4357)

Private counselors listed in the phone book. (State of Nevada board certified counselors (CADC) and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselors (LADC) have specialized substance abuse training. Also, please also consult with your family physician.



  • Navigate the WCSD website by clicking on the Students link then the Safe and Drug Free Schools link.
  • On this site you will find powerpoint presentations, parent resources, community resources and an array of other resources to assist you. 


StraightDopeForParents.org (website for parents who want to raise drug-free kids)
www.theantidrug.com (Available in eight different languages)
www.freevibe.com for teens

For free publications, materials and more reference information you can contact The Nevada Prevention Resource Center through the Center for the Application of Substance Abuse Technologies housed at the University of Nevada, Reno; free publications, materials and more reference information you can contact NevadaPRC.org or 784-6336.

You may also call the Washoe County School District Substance Abuse Coordinator, Katherine Loudon, at 333-5033 for any other referrals and assistance and Join Together Northern Nevada, the area substance abuse coalition for services and connections in our community (324-7557).