“How do I help my child with a drug problem?”
If you are a parent who is experiencing the devastation of teen or adolescent drug addiction, you probably have many questions and no answers. You have tried to help your child on your own but to no avail. As a result, your child is sinking deeper into addiction and their drug problem is becoming more serious. It may feel like you are fighting a losing battle and running out of time.
Teen substance abuse and addiction is a complex issue. In order to help your teenager through these difficult times and guide them to recovery, you need to take a step back to look at all of your options. Fortunately, there are many options to help your teen overcome their addiction. The following is a basic guide for parents who are seeking to help their teen find the help they need to drug and alcohol addiction.
What To Look For: Is Your Child at Risk?
It is important to objectively look at your child’s behavior as a whole and understand the risk factors associated with drug use, abuse and addiction. Addiction has no single cause—instead, it results from a number of social, biological and psychological factors. The following are common risk factors:
Family History of Addiction
Is there a family history of substance abuse? Addiction has a strong genetic component and children who have parents, grandparents or siblings who have struggled with some form of abuse or addiction are at greater risk for developing an addiction. In addition to genetics, there are environmental factors to consider including parenting and family dynamics.
Is your child a thrill seeker and loves to live “on the edge?” Young people who engage in sensation or thrill-seeking behaviors may be more likely to develop alcohol and drug problems. Several studies have revealed that areas of the brain responsible for impulse control were less active in teenagers who regularly used drugs.
Lack of Parental Supervision
Teens that have little in the way of parental monitoring or supervision are at greater risk for developing substance abuse behaviors. Additionally, children who are subject to harsh or inconsistent punishment and have high levels of family conflict also are more likely to develop substance abuse and addiction issues.
Those children and teenagers who were victims of early childhood trauma, abuse and neglect are highly predictive of drug abuse and addiction later on in life. These experiences can include divorce, sexual and mental abuse, having a parent who has a mental illness or having one or both parents who are incarcerated.
Is your child failing classes or having consistent academic and social problems at school? Teenagers who are struggling in school are more likely to be involved in drugs and alcohol. These chances become greater the longer the child has had problems at school. Some warning signs include truancy, an inability to bond with classmates and teachers and failing or poor grades.
What Parents Can Do To Help Their Child With Their Drug Problem
One of the first things parents need to do if their teen is addicted to drugs is to seek medical help from your family doctor, or other qualified medical professional. During this appointment, your child can be screened for drug use as well as any related physical or mental conditions. You may also consult an addiction specialist if one is available in your area. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH):
“There are 3,500 board-certified physicians who specialize in addiction in the United States. The American Society of Addiction Medicine Web site has a “Find a Physician” feature on its homepage, and the American Academy of Child & Adolescent has a “Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder” on its website.”
Finding and placing your child in a teenage drug treatment center is the best possible option to help them overcome their addiction. It is important to know that because your teen is still developing physically, cognitively and psychologically you need to find a treatment center that is experienced with teen drug abusers and has programming tailored to their unique needs. These drug programs for teens should also have solid aftercare and therapy options that teach the life skills needed to sustain recovery.
Helping your teen with their addiction doesn’t have to fall squarely on your shoulders; saving them is a team effort. For example, school guidance counselors have seen teens with drug issues and there may programs available at their school. Additionally, extended family such as aunts, uncles, and cousins can be of help by engaging them in a family outing or hobbies, away from the temptations of their environment.
Another option that parents may not know about is the state laws and statutes regarding their child’s welfare. In many states, there are state statutes that clearly define the parent’s right to seek help for their children for their general welfare. For example, the state of Florida has state statutes which afford parents the right to seek drug treatment services for their child under the age of 18. In many states, there can also be laws that can terminate parental rights if a child’s basic needs aren’t met. Consult with a child care worker or social worker to know about your rights as a parent.
Ultimately, the best thing a parent can do to help their teen is to love them. Try to find ways to put aside your anger, fear, and disappointment and show concern and compassion. Actively listen to your child and don’t rush to judgment. Without the love and support from you, your child will continue to struggle.