Help With Teenage Substance Abuse

Facing substance abuse with a teenager is incredibly difficult. You absolutely want to address the problem because the earlier someone begins abusing alcohol or drugs, the more likely they are to develop an addiction. Ninety percent of people with addictions claim theirs started when they were teenagers.

This means your teen is in real danger of developing a lifelong problem if they’re experimenting with alcohol or drugs. It’s not a life phase they’ll grow out of; it’s the beginning of a lifelong addiction. You should do your research and be willing to step in to get your teen the help they need to stop the problem before it becomes worse. This can be especially difficult with teenagers, but it is worth the effort.

Address teen drug abuse early

Understanding Your Teen’s Motivation

A big part of being a teenager is learning who you are and how you fit into the world as an independent person. This means that teens are experimenting with their hair, their clothes, their attitude, and sometimes, with alcohol and drugs. They may feel the pressure to succeed academically and start abusing an Adderall prescription or feel pressure to drink socially whenever they are spending time with their friends.

Some teens are curious. They’ve been taught to avoid drugs at school, but they also see drug use on TV and in the media and it seems like the cool thing that everyone is doing. Peer pressure also plays a significant role in teen’s decision making. It can’t be that bad if everyone else is doing it. In some situations, there’s an adult in the teen’s life that is an addict and introduces the teen to the drugs.

In some situations, stress drives teens to drugs. Adolescence means that your moods and hormones are changing and turning to drugs seems like a way to numb some of the pain associated with big emotions. If a teen develops anxiety or depression, they’re even more likely to abuse drugs to help them handle their lives.

With so many different reasons teens turn to substance abuse, it’s important to approach any conversation you have with your teen with a willingness to listen. You may be surprised to learn they feel pressured to succeed or left out by their peer group at school and have turned to drugs as an aide. You should never assume you know the motivation: always ask and listen.

Signs of Drug Abuse

If you think your teen might be experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or even becoming addicted, start to look for the following signs.

  • Drop in academic performance
  • Decrease in interest in previously loved activities
  • Not taking care of their appearance
  • Fatigue (more than normal for a teenager)
  • Secrecy
  • Bloodshot eyes or avoidance of eye contact
  • Smell of smoke or alcohol
  • Poor health
  • Mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder

Drug Profiles

Learn more about the symptoms, risks, and treatment methods of specific drugs:

Starting the Conversation With Your Teen

Once you’ve done your research about teen substance abuse, it’s time to start the conversation about treatment. Being calm and willing to listen is key to the success of the conversation. Express your understanding, show your teen how much you care about their health, life, and future. Make sure your teen understands that you’re approaching them from a place of love. Having the right attitude and mind-set going into the conversation means you’re more likely to succeed.

In many instances, your teen will deny the drug use and will almost certainly deny an addiction. Most addicts refuse to believe initially that their use is not under their control and teens are especially subject to this problem. Involving a medical professional, therapist, or counselor can help confirm the drug addiction.

Moving a teen away from the people and places that are promoting the problem may be one solution, but it’s also important to look into treatment, rehabilitation, and aftercare options. These can include inpatient, bridge, outpatient, and aftercare programs that offer many services and therapies including:

Counseling is the key for teen rehabilitation, teaching the teen to recognize the issue, identify the cause or triggers of their addiction, and learn how to cope with these issues to maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Example therapies include:

  • Contingency Management: This is essentially a reward system where your teen receives vouchers when positive progress is made. These vouchers can be anything that motivates the teen so they see their recovery process as a reward, provides positive motivation, and leads to successful recovery.
  • Motivational Interviewing: This is important for helping teens understand why they make certain decisions, learn the impacts of those decisions, and discover what’s important to them and why they want to recover.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This technique teaches people to reprogram their negative thought patterns, change their behavior, and create a lifestyle that moves them away from their addiction and substance-abuse patterns.
  • Family Counseling: Family support is often key to a teen’s success, and during counseling families learn to actively listen to each other, communicate in a positive fashion, and address the problems and behaviors that are leading to substance abuse. Family members also learn how to help the teen as they enter aftercare and support positive lifestyle choices. Learn more about family counseling.

Success often means combining many of these treatments so that the teen gets education, individual counseling, group counseling, and other therapies to address any underlying needs and issues.

Look for Research-Based Treatment

Medical professionals and addiction counselors have scientifically tested many methods of treatment and rely on those with the most evidence to suggest they’re effective and combine this information with what they’ve observed over their careers to be the most effective. These are called research-based treatment models. Counselors combine the different available methods to create a plan customized to assist your teen. Some of this treatment is the same as what is used to treat adults, but others are specific to teenagers and their unique growth and life situations. Counselors consider a teen’s developmental level, the type of drug(s) being abused, the related risk of the abuse, the gender of the teen, the teen’s motivation, and other mental health disorders or physical health issues the teen may have.

In two-thirds of substance abuse situations with teens, they are dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. In these instances, it is important to combine the treatment for the substance abuse problem with appropriate treatment for the mental health disorder. All medical providers and therapists for the teen must work together toward success.

If you choose to place your teen into a rehab facility, make sure it’s a facility that can handle teenage addictions and has the experience and the setup to do so. Using help from, you can find a facility that has a program specifically for teens.

Teenage substance abuse requires treatment

Be Involved After Treatment

Once your teen has started treatment, your goal is to focus on helping them continue their healthy lifestyle. Your willingness to help and participate will give your teen a much higher chance of success. Getting your teen to participate in group self-help sessions or other activities with healthy sober teens will give them peer group support and a positive influence in their lives.

Common Drugs Teens Abuse

Prevention is the best way to help your teen avoid substance abuse issues. Teach your teen about the most commonly abused substances and how to make educated decisions for themselves when taking prescription drugs. They should understand the consequences of drug abuse and know that you’re available to talk if they have a concern.

  • Alcohol: When teens start drinking and going on drinking binges, they’re at a high risk of alcohol addiction. Impulse control is still developing for teenagers, meaning that they will have more trouble moderating their intake. Increasingly regular alcohol intake leads to abuse and dependence. In 2014, 20 percent of seniors in high school reported binge drinking at some point during the year. Of that number, 40% had had a drink within the last month. Alcohol is often easy to obtain and teens drink to copy parents and other social heroes. Start early teaching your children the side effects and dangers of drinking.
  • Prescription Drugs: Another easily available substance that is prone to abuse are the drugs that come from the medicine cabinet. While the parent may have a legitimate use and prescription, overuse by the teen can lead to serious side effects. Sadly, according to the Center for Disease Control, 1 in 5 teens have abused prescription medications. Many parents often believe that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, but both are prone to addiction and overuse.
  • Adderall: One commonly abused prescription drug, especially among high-performing students, is Adderall. Teens view it as a study aid to help them focus, popping an Adderall and opening a book the night before a big exam. When used properly, it can help you feel calm and focused instead of impatient. For those who don’t need the prescription, it can create tunnel vision and even a state of euphoria. Adderall abuse continues into college and graduate school as it is easily available. In 2013, 74 percent of the students who were using Adderall were able to obtain the drug from a friend who had a prescription. Use of the drug leads to dependence and addiction, and can be a gateway to harder drugs such as meth and cocaine because continued use trains the brain not to naturally produce dopamine. There are often serious health issues that come from dependence on Adderall as well such as elevated blood pressure, paranoia, hostility, anxiety, and depression.
  • Xanax: Another prescription medication available from friends that is viewed by teens as a way to relax. However, the drug is highly addictive and poses a serious risk for overdose and other health complications. Learn more about Xanax.
  • Vicodin: A prescription pain reliever that is used to help teens relax and gives a longer feeling of high. Learn more about Vicodin.
  • Marijuana: One of the more common drugs used by teens, marijuana gives the user a sense of peace and calmness to help relieve a teen’s anxiety and stress. The side effects of addiction and continued use, however, include malaise, decreased memory, and schizophrenia. This side effects are not commonly considered when marijuana use is discussed, so make sure your teen is aware. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, almost 21 percent of high-school seniors have reported recent use of marijuana.Recent changes in legislation that have decriminalized and legalized the use of medical marijuana have changed many people’s point of view on marijuana and it has even taken on the image of being a “safe” drug. Learn more about Marijuana.
  • Synthetic Marijuana: Also known as “spice,” or “K2,” this drug has been on the rise since 2011 and has some serious side effects. Often, these chemicals are designed to be legal based on state’s laws and more attention is given to legality than to potential side effects. These can include hallucinations, hostility, paranoia, and delusion.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports scary and high numbers for teen substance use and abuse. Seventy percent of teens have at least tried alcohol by 12th grade, and 50 percent have used some kind of illegal drug. Forty percent have tried smoking cigarettes and 20 percent have abused prescription medications. Looking even younger at children in the eighth grade, 20 percent have used some kind of illegal drug.

These numbers only get worse when kids leave home and go off to college, abusing alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. Kids who started using drugs and drinking alcohol at home are no longer sneaking around parents to partake and are instead enmeshed in a culture that to some extent encourages their excess. Problems that should have been addressed before college or leaving the home can become serious issues and the children, now emancipated from their parents, can be even less likely to cooperate and discuss the possibilities of treatment.

Take the time to talk to your child early about drug abuse and, if you suspect substance abuse, approach your child in a kind and loving fashion. Work with them to get them into the treatment they need before it’s too late for you to help. Your timely actions can put your teen back into a positive lifestyle and give them promise for the future.

Call today at 877-251-4813. We can give you the resources and options to help your teen recover.

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