Substance abuse can make its way into even the unlikeliest of places. Individuals of all ages and of all cultural, social, and economic backgrounds can fall victim to substance abuse disorders and addiction. It often begins with what’s believed to be harmless experimentation with recreation substance abuse. Individuals enjoy getting intoxicated from consuming large quantities of alcohol and marijuana, often leading to stronger and more dangerous substances like cocaine, prescription pills, hallucinogenic mushrooms, and heroin as users continue increasing the dosage as well as the frequently. This results in their developing physical dependency on one or more mind-altering substances, robbing them of much of the enjoyment in their lives and leaving them with an obsessive, compulsive need to seek and consume intoxicating substances.
Substance Abuse in the Family Unit
In cases in which loved one lives in the same household as an individual who may be suffering from addiction, it’s typically easier to determine with some level of accuracy whether the individual is, in fact, suffering from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs. This often occurs when it’s a sibling, parent, or child that is exhibiting signs of a substance abuse disorder, causing other members of the family unit to worry about the individual’s well-being and health and leading them to be wary of any specific signs that could confirm their suspicions.
Parents of teenage children tend to be especially worried about the possibility of children being exposed and becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs. With the rates of substance abuse being so incredibly high both nationally and globally, it’s the worst nightmare of most parents that an adolescent or teenage child will exhibit behavior congruent with substance abuse and physical dependency. This tends to mean that parents pay more and more attention to teens’ behavior as they continue to age, looking for signs of addiction that would alert them to the presence of a problem so that the budding addiction can be swiftly dealt with before it becomes a lifelong issue.
When parents see some sign that makes them suspicious of substance abuse, the next step will often entail searching the teen’s bedroom and belongings for drugs, paraphernalia, and other physical evidence of substance abuse or dependency. Parents who find a teen’s stash, either inadvertently or while snooping, may wonder what the best course of action to take might be. If you have recently found drugs in your teen’s possession, here’s what you should do.
Be an Educated Enforcer
Before the moment of finding your teen’s stash, it’s crucial that you’ve educated yourself on the basics of substance abuse. It seems that most parents are either excessively paranoid about the possibility that their teen will abuse mind-altering substances while others assume it couldn’t happen to their children and don’t worry about it at all. Instead, take a stance that’s somewhere in the middle: Acknowledge that it’s possible, even if only remotely, and learn what to look for so that your innocent teen doesn’t get blamed for something he or she isn’t doing because you’re not quite sure what you should be looking for.
Use the internet as a resource and research teenage addiction and substance abuse. Learn about the common behaviors exhibited by teens when they’re experimenting or addicted to alcohol and drugs. Knowing more about this will mean you’ll be better prepared for the possibility of it happening and equipped with the knowledge of how the situation should best be handled.
Think Before You Act
If you find an alcohol or drug stash in your teen’s bedroom, try to refrain from letting your emotions get the best of you. Immediately confronting the teen with your anger, outrage, and tears is the absolute worst thing you could do. This kind of discovery is going to make you volatile, even unpredictable, and would likely cause you to say things before you’ve really thought about them. For example, you don’t want to immediately throw your teen out of the house and then realize later that night that you’ve made a momentous, colossal mistake. Take some time, even a day or two, to collect yourself and strategize about how you want to handle the situation. You’re upset about this situation because you love your teen and you’re scared of this situation and what it could lead to, so find the best way to convey those thoughts and feelings to your teen.
Prepare Yourself for the Discussion
It’s probably hard not to think of this as a confrontation, but try not to. When you approach your teen with your discovery, it’s to have a discussion, not a confrontation. By being understanding and empathetic, your teen will be more likely to participate in the conversation and make it an exchange rather than it being you berating him or her. This is essential if you hope to learn the circumstances that led to his or her substance abuse so that you can set rules that will prevent those circumstances from encouraging substance abuse going forward.
Additionally, it’s equally important that you prepare for the discussion by doing some research. Look up statistics about the drug or substance you now know your teen has been using, such as addiction rates, health risks, side effects, and so on. Inform your teen what it is that he or she is risking or possibly sacrificing by continuing to experiment with and abuse alcohol and drugs. If you feel the problem is severe, you might even consult your child’s pediatrician or doctor about outpatient treatment or a program specifically for adolescents and teens.
Outline the Rules
Once your teen is aware that you’ve done your research and know what you’re talking about, make sure that he or she is also aware that this type of behavior cannot and will not be tolerated moving forward. Discuss your rules, then explain to your child why you’re setting these rules and why they’re important. Explain that it’s not your desire to make your child’s life difficult or unpleasant, but rather to guide them toward adulthood while ensuring their safety and health. Rules might not be fun, but they’re set with love. Just as important as the rules are the consequences for breaking them, which should also be clearly outlined to your teen. After the rules and consequences have been discussed, it’s the duty of the parents to enforce the rules, otherwise this will all have been for nought.
Encourage Openness and Show Support
Finally, make sure that you encourage your teen to maintain open communication with you as his or her parent. Tell them that addiction is not an easy disease from which to recover with difficulties expected over the course of the process. Encourage your teen to come talk to you and confide in you, express his or her thoughts and feelings and fears. Be supportive of your teen throughout the entire process. If necessary, encourage and allow him or her to participate in twelve-step programs and support groups, especially those intended specifically for adolescents and teens, as these have proven to be a great resource for those with the desire to abstain from substance abuse.
If you or someone you love is addicted to alcohol or drugs, the Palm Beach Institute can help. Our knowledgeable specialists have helped numerous addicts begin the journey of recovery by matching them with the programs that met their individual needs and we can help you, too. Call us today.