These recent disturbing incidents have generated enhanced awareness about teenage substance abuse patterns. According to Dr. Karen Khaleghi, founder and director of eduction at Creative Care Malibu and co-author "The Anatomy of Addiction: Overcoming the Triggers That Stand in the Way of Recovery," teens who partake in recreational use of common medicines and household products are in a heightened category of risk.
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"Teens that do things like drink hand sanitizer or mouthwash, or consume spray can inhalants demonstrate much greater risk taking behavior than those that would drink half a dozen beers," Khaleghi said in a phone interview with The Huffington Post. "Although that [half dozen beers] is a lot."
Khaleghi said that teens who demonstrate such behavior are more than likely aware that what they are doing is dangerous, so parents who become aware of their teen's extreme substance consumption should "seek professional help right away." This is especially true for teens younger than 18, when treatment can be mandated.
"[Some parents] want to think that it's adolescent development, or that all kids must go through it, but often times that's not the case," said Khalegi, who has worked with teens in schools for 22 years, and is a mother of four.
But obviously, it's not just the high-risk teens that need attention. Parents who become aware of habitual use by their children of more conventional drugs like alcohol or marijuana should also consider seeking professional help, according to Khalegi.
While that might not necessarily mean admitting teenage drinkers to an inpatient facility, counseling is a good first step. Parents should also pay attention to changes in their teens' environment, such as school performance, changes in their peer group, and changes in their behavior.
"All substance abuse starts as some form of self-medication for emotional pain," Dr. Khaleghi said.
But, she also added that often times parents don't pay enough attention to the social cues that they give their kids about alcohol. According to Khalegi, if parents habitually use alcohol as a means by to "soothe, celebrate, or be social," they may be reinforcing messages about consumption that are already very present in the media and broader culture.
"Parents model everything for their kids," she said, "So it's important for them to be aware of the messages that they give to them."
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