What to Do if Your Teen is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol

What should you do if your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol? That is a question I wish I had asked myself a lot sooner.

Addiction and Your Teen

I'm the mom of a teen drug addict. I had my suspicions before I found out the drug abuse was going on. I didn't act on them right away. What I didn't realize was that I was actually enabling my son to continue abusing drugs. Fortunately, we were able to get him into drug treatment eventually. However, the process involved so much heartache.

If you are suspecting that your adolescent is abusing drugs or abusing alcohol, the time to act is now. Don't look the other way, and don't enable the behavior. Knowing what to do just might save his or her life.

Signs of Drug Abuse or Alcohol Abuse in Teens

It's possible that your teenager has been acting strangely lately. The idea of drug abuse or alcohol abuse crossed your mind. However, you didn't really think too much of it. Now that you're considering it more, you're not even sure what to look for.

The following are some of the signs of drug abuse or alcohol abuse in adolescents:

  • Bloodshot or red eyes
  • Pupils that appear smaller or larger than usual
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Appetite changes, coupled with weight loss or weight gain
  • Not paying close attention to personal grooming habits

You may also notice these behavioral signs:

  • Evidence of skipping class
  • Losing interest in school and homework
  • Missing money or valuables at home
  • Becoming silent and withdrawn
  • Avoiding eye contact with you
  • Demanding that he or she has more privacy at home

If you noticed any of the above, there is a good chance your child is abusing drugs or alcohol.

Types of Drugs Teenagers Will Typically Abuse

Teenagers don't have access to a lot of substances for the purpose of abusing them. However, there are certain ones that are fairly easy for them to obtain. The types of drugs that teenagers will usually abuse include the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Over the counter medications
  • Inhalants (such as gasoline or paint thinner)
  • Prescription drugs (such as Adderall or Concerta)

They may also abuse any drug that might be easily found in your medicine cabinet. For example, if you have a prescription for an opiate pain reliever like Vicodin, your teen may abuse it.

Teenagers will often obtain substances from their other friends who use them.

Alcohol and marijuana are typically easy to come by at parties or even at friends' houses. They can walk into any drug store and purchase cough medicine or other over the counter drugs.

For teens who want to use drugs or alcohol, obtaining them usually isn't a big problem.

Addicted Teen

Signs of Addiction in Young People Parents Need to be Aware of

Drug abuse or alcohol abuse in teens is one thing. It's something entirely different once the abuse becomes an addiction. For teenagers, addiction is the logical result the longer the substance abuse continues. As a parent, it's important for you to be aware of the different signs of addiction in adolescents.

Signs of addiction among teenagers include:

  • Witnessing extreme personality and mood changes
  • Spending time with a different group of friends
  • Lacking in motivation to go to school or work
  • Feeling the need to use upon waking up in the morning
  • Unusual smells on clothing or on his or her breath

Have you noticed any of these with your teenager? If you have, it's likely that the abuse has progressed into a drug or alcohol addiction.

How to Behave and Not Enable Adolescent Addictive Behavior

As a parent, you certainly want your teen to be happy. You also want your adolescent to be safe. Sometimes, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. Many parents inadvertently enable their adolescents' addictive behavior. Most of the time, they don't mean to. It just happens.

Some of the ways that parents can enable include:

  • Providing a space that's safe for drug or alcohol use. This happens all the time. Parents end up believing that their son or daughter's substance abuse is OK as long as it happens at home. Drug or alcohol use among teens is never OK, and parents shouldn't allow it in their houses.
  • Giving teens money to spend on drugs or alcohol. They promise that they only need it one time, and that they'll never ask again. It might seem strange to you, but many parents give in when they're asked.
  • Failing to let police officers do their job. Parents tend to get anxious when their teens break the law and get arrested. Sometimes, it's best to let them go through that process. That way, they get to see the consequences of their actions.
  • Failing to get treatment themselves. Parents need to have someone to talk to about what they're going through. A support group like Al-Anon can be incredibly helpful for parents of addicted teenagers. It can also be helpful to talk with a counselor in a one on one setting.
  • Failing to talk about the addiction. Many parents are scared to bring up the alcohol or drug use with their teens. They believe that doing so will just drive them away, or make the problem much worse. This is a problem, and because of this, so many more teens are using today than ever.

Your teenager needs to know your stance on drug and alcohol abuse. Failing to make that known only sets him or her up to continue. As you know, that can be deadly.

You may have enabled your child in the past because you were scared. So many parents do. However, just because you've done it before, that doesn't mean it has to continue. You still have time to stop it, but you have to set clear boundaries. Let your teen know what behaviors you deem to be unacceptable. After you do, stick to what you say. It's so important for you to be consistent.

Tips for Parents of Addicted Adolescents

If you do have an addicted adolescent, this might be the first time you've faced this. It helps to have some tips so that you know what you should do. We'd like to offer you a few to assist you as you face this crisis with your teenager.

Addiction Bloggers to Follow

Last Call is a blog that offers information about both drug and alcohol addiction and abuse. It is full of informative information that parents will find to be very useful.

Cathy Taughinbaugh is an excellent blogger who understands teen addiction. Having dealt with it herself, she is there to offer hope and encouragement to parents. This blog is very valuable for any parent who is facing this problem currently.

Online Support is Available

Getting online support can be important for parents who may have trouble attending in person meetings. These websites offer help to parents who need it during this time.

  • Learn2Cope offers meetings in person all over the country. They also have an online forum where parents can go to ask questions and get support.
  • Friends and Family of Addicts Support Group offers a supportive community for parents of addicted teens. Anyone can join in on the discussion and get help.
  • MD Junction offers an online support group for parents of addicts as well. Their group has filled with informative questions and articles that can be so helpful.

Addiction Information and Resources to Consider

It's so important for you to get as much information as you can about your child's addiction. Educating yourself is the key to bringing about the change you want to see. To do this, you must do your research on addiction. The more you learn, the more prepared you will be for what lies ahead.

You can also find a lot of great information on addiction at DrugAbuse.gov. This is a government site that is dedicated to substance abuse education. You'll find it to be very informative.

Know the Process of Seeking Help for Your Teen's Addiction

If you have an addicted teen in your home, please know that you can get help. The first thing you should do is try to have a conversation with your teen. If that doesn't seem to do any good, it's time to take the next step.

Consider utilizing intervention services. An intervention can be a very effective tool that you can use to your advantage. During an intervention, you will invite your child's friends and family members to participate. You'll meet with an interventionist who will explain the process to you in detail. You'll talk about the addiction, and you'll be advised on what to say during the meeting.

Please know that you may have to lay down some hard, fast rules. You may have to take away some things that your child loves. If your teen is older, you may even have to threaten to make him or her move out of your home. The advice you'll be given is only for your teenager's good. Please take the advice, and stay consistent. Doing so will only help your child see the need to get drug treatment or alcohol treatment.

At Northpoint Washington, we want to help you. We know how you feel, and we know you're desperate for a solution to this problem.

Do you have a drug or alcohol addicted teen? Are you in need of intervention services or advice? Please contact us today.