As an adult, it’s hard enough to determine whether or not someone is slowly becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. The earliest stages of a substance use disorder (SUD) are fraught with irregularities, and the attempt to uncover what they’re doing will be met with resistance on every level. Now, imagine trying to determine if your adolescent child has become an addict. An adolescent is defined as someone between the ages of 10 and 19, which are prime years for drug and alcohol experimentation. While some children start younger and get over the peer pressure earlier, others might not begin until college and continue using throughout their 20s. Everyone is different, but it’s vital to monitor them for signs of addiction.
Drug use among adolescents has increased over the past several years. Many experts attribute this to the rise of social media and feelings of inadequacy when they’re constantly comparing themselves to one another. Drugs and alcohol are often the missing links between happiness and satisfaction. But if you know anything about addiction, you know it’s not a feasible long-term solution. According to the National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics (NCDAS), youth drug abuse is a high-profile public health concern. An estimated one in eight teens abused an illicit substance in the previous year.
Their key findings show that drug use among eighth-graders surged a staggering 61 percent between 2016 and 2020. Other key findings show that 62 percent of teens in 12th grade admitted to abusing alcohol, with another 50 percent of teens having misused a drug at least once. Early drug abuse can lead to substance abuse issues later in life, and the most significant increase in destructive behavior takes place among older teens and young adults. The statistics go on to show that 2.08 million 12- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. reported using drugs in the previous month, accounting for 8.33 percent of that population. Of those, 83.88 percent report using marijuana in the past month.
With more adolescents using and abusing substances, it’s apparent that the need for addiction treatment is greater than ever. Attempting to determine if your child is going through more than just an “experimental phase” is a challenge. However, there are ways, as a parent, you can monitor their activity to ensure they’re safe. Remember that 11.2 percent of overdose deaths occur in those between the ages of 15 and 24, so you must remain vigilant and watch your child. That sometimes is easier said than done, and they might be upset with you about it, but there are ways to approach the topic delicately.
Below, we’ll discuss how you can seek adolescent addiction treatment and get you or your child the help they need and how to approach these topics in a way that doesn’t involve anger and animosity.
What Are the Signs of Teen Drug Abuse?
You may want to beat yourself up when you find out your child has been experimenting with drugs or alcohol. However, that shouldn’t be the case. These things happen, but as long as you’re familiar with the warning signs, you can make decisions about how to proceed.
It’s common for teens and young adults to experience mood swings because of the changes that come with adolescence, but when is it too much? Here are some warning signs that your child could be abusing drugs or alcohol:
- Sleeping more than usual
- Always responding aggressively or with anger
- Losing interest in activities they once found enjoyable
- Dropping old friends for a new crowd
- Staying out past curfew
- Noticeable physical changes, including sudden weight loss, bloody or watery eyes, nosebleeds, shakes, or tremors
- Avoiding eye contact
- Locking their bedroom door
- Always asking for money
- Poor grades
- Absence from school
- Poor hygiene
- Changes in pupil size
- Track marks on arms
- Cold, sweating, or shaky hands
If you believe your teen is using drugs or alcohol, there are ways to approach it.
How Do I Approach My Child About Drugs and Alcohol?
Parents of adolescents face quite a dilemma when it comes to drug and alcohol use. We’ve grown up and gone through that part of our lives and know the unique challenges they’re facing. Your child is coming into their own and making the slow transition into adulthood. In order to achieve that, they’re met with plenty of resistance. They want to fit in with others and will do what it takes, even if it means using drugs or alcohol under duress or because of peer pressure. For some, they’ll love the feeling as it teleports them away from their cares and worries, while others will hate it and never try it again.
As parents, we don’t want our children to find out whether or not they enjoy drugs or alcohol because of the potential risks they face, especially in an age where a prescription pill might not be what it’s marketed as to your child. The “One Pill Can Kill” initiative set forth by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is to educate children and parents about the dangers of drugs today and how they can be contaminated with fentanyl. It’s a topic that must be discussed with your child, so how do you approach it?
Remember, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Similar to addiction treatment, you must customize your plan of action to find a solution. You know your child better than we do, so you’ll know how to proceed. However, below are some suggestions on approaching this delicate topic.
- Ask questions, but don’t lecture: We want to pass on the wisdom from our youth to our children, but sometimes, the best thing we can do is listen. It’s more practical to draw out their curiosity by asking questions, including if they know what marijuana is or what other drugs are. Your child will feel valued that you want to know their opinion and be more likely to open up.
- Explore the reasons they’ve tried drugs or alcohol: Your child may admit to using drugs or alcohol to relieve anxiety or help them cope with a situation they’re going through. Your curiosity can help them feel less judged. It can also provide an opportunity to understand their struggles and find alternative means of help, which could be professional support or adolescent addiction treatment.
- Know when to intervene: It’s a challenge when engaging in this dialogue with your child. You must encourage openness and honesty, letting them know you won’t be angry or upset. Your child has to trust you, but if you notice any of the patterns we touched on above, it might be time to intervene and have them assessed by a medical professional.
Does My Teen Need Rehab?
When it comes to adolescent addiction treatment, your primary care physician can help you determine if they need professional help. For those who experiment with drugs or alcohol a few times, you may not need to send them to treatment right away. However, that doesn’t mean things can’t take a turn for the worse later on and spiral out of control. If you opt against treatment, you must monitor them closely. If the situation has reached a point where there’s no other option but rehab, you’ll need to take the next steps.
Adolescents have different needs from adults, meaning the treatment approach will differ. Secrecy about substance abuse will be met with denial when you bring it up. However, if you discuss it in the manner mentioned above, you could get them to speak more freely. If you both conclude that treatment is the best option, your child must attend an age-specific program that caters to young adults. This helps reduce problematic drug and alcohol use while enhancing addiction recovery.
The most beneficial means of adolescent addiction treatment is a treatment center that provides an evidence-based approach. Summit Behavioral Health offers the latest and greatest methods rooted in science to help treat adolescent addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used means of helping those with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that self-medicate to overcome their symptoms. Our psychiatrists will get to the root of their issues and work together toward recovery and healing the individual.
If you’re concerned about your child and believe they need adolescent addiction treatment, we can help. It’s not going to be an easy road, but at least you have options.