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Risky Business for Teens

Risky Teen Behaviors
Do you know what skittling is? How about tussing, playing space monkey or the fainting game? Do you know which items in your medicine cabinet can give kids a "high?" If you don't, you should -- chances are your kid does. They're all risky behaviors teens are enaging in these days.

While there's certainly nothing new about teens taking risks, many of these activities can have deadly outcomes and are also starting at younger ages. The best way to help your child be safe is for parents to stay up on what's going on and know the warning signs.

Here are four risky behaviors today's kids are engaging in that all parents should be aware of so you can talk to your child and hopefully prevent a tragedy.

The Choking Game
Many kids have started playing a game called the Choking Game, the Pass Out Game, Space Monkey or Black Out. They shut off oxygen flow to the brain by pressing their thumb or hand tightly on the neck; tying a rope, necktie, belt around their neck; hyperventilating by holding their breath; or putting a plastic bag over the head until they get a floaty, tingling or high sensation.

It can be "played" in a group in which children choke each other or apply pressure under a child's heart. It's also gaining in popularity as a solo venture. The activity is addicting and can lead to brain damage, permanent neurological disabilities and has been responsible for a large number of juvenile deaths.

Signs to Look For:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Changes in attitude (overly aggressive)
  • Disorientation or grogginess after being alone
  • Frequent often severe headaches
  • Inexplicable bruising or red marks around the neck
  • Ropes, plastic bags, or neckties tied in strange knots
  • Curiosity about asphyxiation

What Parents Can Do
Warn your child. Explain that this "game" causes not only slurred speech, gaps of memory, sudden outbursts of anger, but also possible strokes, seizures, retinal damage, brain damage or even death. Be firm and serious in your talks. Most kids have no clue how dangerous this game is or how the brain is effected by a lack of oxygen.

Monitor your child's bedroom. Do so especially if you notice locked or blocked doors and unusual demands for privacy.

Watch for signs. Blood-shot eyes, marks on the neck, asking about asphyxiation. Some children actually think this approach to "getting high" is safer than alcohol or drugs.

Get savvy. Many kids are doing this activity alone for the high. If the child loses consciousness and there is no one there to immediatley release the pressure, he is unable to help himself. The child could suffer brain damage and death usually after three minutes.

Online Gambling
Gambling is spreading quickly in the under 18 sector, despite the fact that it's still illegal in many forms. In fact, gambling is surpassing drinking, drugs and smoking as the most popular high-risk activity among boys. What's more, teens are between two to four times as likely as adults to be problem gamblers.

Signs to Look For:

  • Bragging about winning money
  • Dropping out of other activities to spend time gambling and betting money
  • Asking for additional cash. Using lunch money or other expenses to pay for gambling
  • Reading extensively about gambling; purchasing poker chips, cards and other poker paraphernalia
  • Purchasing MasterCard and Visa gift cards. Teens are using them to deposit funds through small financial firms that do business with online casinos. It's one way they get past the age requirements by
  • just checking on-screen box stating they are 18 or older
  • Watching TV gambling shows such as "Celebrity Poker" and "World Series of Poker" compulsively; frequenting online gambling sites

What Parents Can Do
Monitor your child's internet and TV choices; restrict when compulsions increase

Watch your teen's money spending traffic

Get help if you suspect an addiction from an outside group such as 1-800 Next Step

Cold Medicine Addiction
The ingredient found in most popular nonprescription cold and cough medicines -- called Dextromethorphan or DXM- can be safely taken in 15 to 30 milligram doses. However, when taken in significant doses it can produce euphoric highs and hallucinations. Many kids are taking as much as 25 to 50 times the recommended dose to get high, but in large amounts it can become a dangerous, even deadly mind-altering drug.

Get the Stats:

  • One out of every fourteen kids aged 12 to 17 (more than 2.4 million) admit using cold or cough medicine "fairly recently" to get high.
  • The highest incidents of abuse are amongst teens 15 to 16-year-olds.
  • One in ten teens says they have used Vicodin, a potentially habit-forming painkiller, OxyContin, stimulants like Ritalin, inhalers (all prescription medications) are also widely used among teens.
  • Only 45 percent of teens believe that abusing cough medicine to get high it risky.

What Parents Can Do
Keep track of how much medicine is in your house. Keep medicines that could potentially be abused in less accessible places.

Read the labels. Look for medicines that contain dextromethorphan or DXM in the active ingredient section of the over-the-counter Drug Facts label.

Don't stockpile on over-the-counter medicines. It might tempt your teen.

Monitor your teen's Internet use. Many website and online communities promote the abuse of DMT or other drugs. Social networking sites such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook provided detailed instructions for getting high as well as videos of kids abusing cough medicine.

Join the Read how five moms decided to tell other parents about teen cough syrup abuse and how they are succeeding in spreading their message.

Talk about the dangers. Kids perceive that because cough and cold medications are available in drug stores, they are safe.

Steroid Use
Kids as young as ten years old are taking illegal steroids to do better in sports. And it isn't just boys who are partaking. Use among middle-school girls is almost as prevalent as it is among boys.

Steroids can harm the liver, stunt growth and cause a host of other long-term ailments, but these young bodies are particularly vulnerable. There are clear health risks that your child needs to know including severe acne, loss of hair, liver abnormalities (including peliosis hepatitis or blood-filled cysts), increase in cholesterol, rage, increase in blood clots and high blood pressure.

Signs to Look For:

  • Increased acne
  • Deeper voice
  • Increased facial or body hair
  • More aggressive behavior
  • Marked change in personality

What Parents Can Do
Talk to your child early. Kids as young as fifth grade are now indulging.

Use the news. There have been a lot of stories lately about athletic pros and possible steriod use (Barry Bonds ring a bell?). Use them to relate to your kids.

Monitor your computer. The majority of kids buy anabolic steroids and other performance-enhancement supplements at home straight off the Internet. Other kids say that they buy drugs from local distributors at private gyms or from youth coaches.

Examine your kid's wallet. Steroids can be pricey. So check that savings account for any large withdrawals, look to brothers, sisters and unsuspecting grandparents as loan sources, and monitor your credit card activity.

Share your views. One of the main reasons kids take steroids is to please their parents. If you've been stressing about that college scholarship, winning at any cost, or how proud you are that she's such an athlete ("Olympic are right around the corner, darling"), then also make sure she knows why you think steroids are wrong.

What Else Can You Do?
Get educated. Learn as much as you can about the signs of abuse. Awareness is power!

Start early. Studies show that kids are starting these risky behaviors as young as nine years old. Talk about these risky issues using age-appropriate information and teachable-type moments.

Create an open atmosphere. Your kids need to feel safe to ask you questions on any subject. Even if you haven't heard of these activities, chances are your kids have.

Spread your values. Let your kids know where you stand on these risky behaviors and why.

Talk with other parents. Start a coalition to stop the potential for abuse.

Be a hands on parent. Know what your kids are doing, who they are hanging around with and which Internet sites and TV shows they watch. Monitor their comings and goings.

Teach real ways to say no. Kids say they want to know how to avoid peer pressure, but also say that "Just Say No" doesn't work. Arm your child with an arsenal of peer pressure strategies.

Fast increase in weight and muscle mass
Preoccupation with weights and working out



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