Some addictive substances are not only legal but a daily part of our lives. Dr. Oz shares the top teen addictions and how to spot the signs that someone you love has gone too far. From YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens: A Guide to a Healthy Body and Happy Life, by Michael F. Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet C. Oz, M.D.
The most common addictions are (1) alcohol, (2) cigarettes and smokeless tobacco, (3) marijuana, (4) video games, and (5) Facebook, in that order. People tend to forget about chewing tobacco and snuff, but it is just as addictive and dangerous to your health as cigarettes. The nicotine in tobacco causes the addiction, while the hydrocarbons that you suck in are potentially deadly, causing over a dozen different forms of cancer, as well as the serious respiratory ailment emphysema. Furthermore, chewing tobacco and cigarette use is hazardous to your skin (wrinkles), sex life (impotence and poorer quality orgasms), heart, and brain.
Marijuana is physiologically and emotionally addictive, but because of the growing movement to legalize it for medical use, many people assume that it is safe for the general population. In the smoked form, you get the toxic effects of the hydrocarbons of the smoke (one shared joint or blunt used to contain the same amount of carcinogens as four cigarettes). You won’t get hydrocarbons from eating pot brownies, but with today’s marijuana, each blunt may be more like a whole pack’s worth of cigarettes.
Alcohol is tricky. Despite being legal and socially accepted in many cultures, especially ours, it can be addictive and have dangerous consequences in the portion of people who have low tolerance or who carry a genetic risk for alcoholism (about 17 percent of the American population). Unfortunately, you can’t test for that gene beforehand, although you can get a clue from your own family history. Has anyone in your family struggled with alcohol or substance abuse? How about depression? Knowing that should help you figure out whether to avoid drinking completely or to proceed with caution. For those who have already tried drinking, here’s a question: Have you ever blacked out from overimbibing? Blacking out means that you were awake and functioning while drinking, but after sobering up, you don’t remember all the details. Danger! That’s a hallmark of carrying the alcoholic gene. Passing out means that you drank more than your system could handle, and your body went to sleep to protect you.
Unfortunately, if you drink enough to pass out, your body may “protect” you by slowing down respiration to the point of coma and death. If you’re ever in a situation where someone has passed out after drinking alcohol, waste no time in calling 911 and getting help—it’s better to admit that the two of you were drinking and face punishment than to lose a friend. While you’re waiting for the EMT, take immediate steps to make sure your friend can breathe. If he’s vomiting, position him on his side so he doesn’t swallow his vomit. And call 911 to walk you through CPR if you don’t know it.
As for another most common addiction we see, involving phoning, texting, and practically living on the internet, some teenagers just can’t stop. You may not have this, but check out your parents. Do they answer their BlackBerry messages at dinner? Or is there ever a sacred time when that call just goes unanswered, as it should? Feel free to educate them on the addictive nature of the internet.
For more great advice to help your teen, BUY YOU: The Owner’s Manual for Teens from: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Borders, Hastings, IndieBound.