Bob Sharits, chemical dependency counselor, will discuss adolescent brain chemistry and addictive behaviors at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25 at a meeting sponsored by Action: a local parent and teen support program. The meeting will be held in the A Building lecture hall at the west end of the campus of Canyon High School, 19300 Nadal Street, Canyon Country.
According to Sharits, teen drug and alcohol addiction is very real. While some teens may experiment with drug and alcohol use, there are certain teens, who become addicted and addiction is a disease.
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Those attending Sharits’ talk will hear about the symptoms of teen drug addiction, how it affects the family, as well as provide information about teen physiology which has a direct effect on how teens respond to drug and alcohol use, as well as treatment. Sharits will touch upon important family communications strategies.
“Parents will learn about their own belief systems and blind spots centered around substance use in their teenagers,” said Sharits. “They will learn where addiction stems from, how the cycle builds, and more importantly, what the recovery process looks like.”
According to Sharits, the teenage brain is not fully developed until young adulthood around the age of 20 and teens don’t think and process information with their frontal lobe as adults do, but with their amygdala. The amygdala controls impulsive behavior and drug addiction is certainly an impulsive behavior.
Sharits will also address peer influence and teenage relationships or what Sharits terms the “herd mentality.”
“We now know that the physical and social stages of development during a teenager’s life are governed by intense social interaction with their peers,” said Sharits. “We also know teens who suffer from addiction to drugs and alcohol must change ‘herds’ to work on their recovery.”
The ACTION Parent and Teen Support Program is a non-profit program, which supports groups of concerned parents who meet to offer each other support and practical solutions to problems. Each parent group is led by a parent who has been trained as an ACTION group facilitator.
“The ACTION Parent and Teen Support Program is structured very differently from most parent support groups,” said Cary Quashen, founder and executive director of ACTION. “While parents are meeting, teens attend the ACTION Teen Group. These groups are led by certificated and licensed counselors who are experienced in working with young people growing up into today’s world, who maybe be making wrong choices. There are no ‘bad’ kids, but often wrong choices and sometimes those choices can be deadly. Teens are often faced with pressures and decisions that can be confusing and frustrating. ACTION offers a place for teens to learn positive behaviors that will work for them. They learn skills to promote healthier and happier lifestyles.”
For further information about Sharits’ speaking engagement or the ACTION Parent and Teen Support Group meetings held weekly on Tuesdays at Canyon High School, call the ACTION Hotline at 1-800-For-Teens or (661) 297-8681.
Signs and symptoms of teen drinking and drug use
• Changes in friends
• Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school or declining grades
• Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
• Use of incense, room deodorant or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors
• Subtle changes in conversations with friends, such as being more secretive or using “coded” language
• Changes in clothing choices: new fascination with clothes that highlight drug use
• Increase in borrowing money
• Evidence of drug paraphernalia, such as pipes and rolling papers
• Evidence of use of inhalant products (such as hair spray, nail polish, correction fluid, common household products). Rags and paper bags are sometimes used as accessories
• Bottles of eye drops, which may be used to mask bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
• New use of mouthwash or breath mints to cover up smell of alcohol
• Missing prescription drugs — especially narcotics and mood stabilizers