Danger to Teens: What physicians look for in their patients

danger to teens We have an important poll today and wanted to send it out as a message to parents, guardians and other care givers who work with teenagers. We asked our physicians, what is the biggest danger to teens today?  Their answers largely focused on mind-altering substances;  82 percent of physicians chose among using illegal drugs, abusing prescription drugs, or drinking alcohol.   Smoking (9%), teenage pregnancy (6%) and contracting sexually transmitted diseases (3%) ranked far behind. The concern is warranted.  A recent survey showed that about 50 percent of teens have tried an illicit drug at least once before high school graduation and 80 percent had tried alcohol.   Risky behavior leads to true tragedy.  One study estimates that from 35,000 deaths between the ages of 15 and 24 about 20,000 could be prevented if teens and young adults made better choices. Another report from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows the statistics of abuse and treatment.

  • 600,000 teens smoke pot
  • 400,000 teens drink alcohol
  • 71,000 in any given day will be in inpatient treatment programs
  • 10,000 a day in other substance abuse programs

Physicians and Teen Drug Abuse Physicians should regularly screen patients and their families about the potential of drug or alcohol abuse.  Changes in behavior, sleeping patterns, grades falling suddenly can all be clues substance abuse is present. This brief video discusses why physicians can sometimes get patients to open up when others can’t. [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etmnGonWqS0] Another big issue is the occasional drug or alcohol abuser who doesn’t display any outward symptoms but will occasionally participate in dangerous activities.  Physicians should work with families and the teen on prevention and on seeking help if needed. As a physician, how do you talk to teens about drug or alcohol abuse?  What have you found to be the most effective way to communicate with teenagers?  Do you find working with families as a whole more or less helpful than dealing with the teen one-on-one? We will discuss all this and more inside our Sermo community.  If you’re an M.D. or D.O. please join us. 

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