New research shows bullying can lead to drug abuse in teens

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - A new warning for parents: Research suggests that if your child is a victim of bullying, they may be more likely to use drugs.

A University Hospitals report revealed that when over 4,000 children were surveyed, the children who were bullied in fifth grade were more likely to be depressed in seventh grade, and then were more likely to abuse drugs by tenth grade.

Dr. Vince Caringi, a psychiatrist for University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, says the effects of bullying can put a child at risk for substance abuse.

"If you talk to people that have experienced both, they will tell you in their personal story that their experience of bullying led to substance abuse as a coping mechanism to manage what they were experiencing in their life," said Caringi.

What should parents do?

"You really want a nice open communication with the kids to give them the opportunity to express how they are feeling," added Caringi.

Caringi adds, you want to have open communication with your kid's school, and you should get to know your kids' friends and their parents.

"A lot of what they are going to be exposed to is going to be peer driven. So, knowing what their friends are into and what they like to do and what they may have experimented with, is a very important part," said Caringi.

Rachel Gattuso, of Massillon, says she was bullied so much as a young child in school that she was doing drugs by middle school to deal with the emotional pain she was experiencing.

"I was cross-eyed actually. So I was really bullied over being cross-eyed." Then kids, she says, found other reasons to make fun of her. "It was like every little thing they could find to pick on me about - I was a little chubby - I got picked on for being chubby and fat."

Gattuso says when she started using drugs she finally felt like she fit in.

"I used because I wanted to fit in. People liked me, and I thought I liked myself more. I could talk and function around people. I wasn't nervous. I didn't stutter. I wasn't shy," said Gattuso.

Rachel says it took years, but she's now sober and a proud mom. She hopes her story will help someone else get help instead of turning to drugs.

"Parents really need to be aware when that stuff starts to happen. Go to the school. Say something. It might save a kid's life," added Gattuso.

It's been reported that research also shows that 1 in 3 children never tell an adult that they are being bullied.

The signs you should look for include:

  • Unusual injuries
  • The child doesn't want to go to school
  • Reoccurring stomach aches and headaches
  • Changes in eating habits and mood
  • Loss of friends
  • Avoiding social situations

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