There are several misconceptions about alcohol and drug addiction, which have resulted in the perception of addicts having willfully chosen the path of addiction. Although behavior and personal choice represent important factors in the development of addiction, there are other components as well. For some individuals, a biological or genetic predisposition makes them more likely to develop an addiction if they experiment with substance abuse; others are led down the path of addiction due to environmental circumstances. No matter how or why it occurs, alcohol and drug addiction is a chronic, progressive disease that initiates a dramatic transformation, turning good people into individuals who are only concerned about their next fix.
Substance abuse is especially dangerous for adolescents and teens. Impressionable by nature, these youths are commonly curious about substance abuse and have traditionally experimented with alcohol and marijuana at young ages. However, with a heroin epidemic having taken the United States by storm there’s evidence of increased heroin use among high school and college-aged individuals. Substance abuse at such a young age is especially dangerous since these individuals are not yet fully developed; when youths abuse alcohol and drugs to the point of addiction, they run the risk of stunting their physical and psychological development. Moreover, addiction makes individuals more likely to resort to criminal behaviors and damage important relationships, which can have a major impact on the rest of their lives.
For parents of teens who have been experimenting with substance abuse, the grim possibilities that result from teenage addiction can be terrifying. As such, it’s important for parents of teens who have been abusing alcohol or drugs to be prepared to intervene in order to divert the lives that would be lost to addiction.
Be Prepared & Educated
It’s often said that knowledge is power. However, one of the common characteristics of individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction is denial with most addicts often denying the reality or severity of their dependency. As such, teens who have been experimenting with substance abuse tend to not only be secretive about their consumption but also tend to minimize the direness of the situation. Parents who want to help their teens to stop abusing alcohol and drugs need to prepare by educating themselves about substance abuse and addiction. The knowledge that will be most beneficial includes the addictive potential of the various chemical substances, the side effects and symptoms that accompany substance abuse, the difficulty addiction recovery process, and the lifelong journey of sustained abstinence. Parents should also familiarize themselves with the signs of substance abuse in order to better identify when a problem is present.
Develop a Plan
Once a parent is certain of a teen’s alcohol or drug abuse and has become educated on the subject, it’s time to create an actionable plan. In short, parents are planning the confrontation with the teen substance abuser, which involves anticipating possible responses and reactions and deciding how best to address them. When the confrontation occurs, teens will likely deny the accusations initially due to the fear of reproach and punishment.
However, when reaching the point of finally admitting to the problem he or she will likely make excuses for the behavior so as to be held in the least possible amount of accountability. Common excuses that are given by teen substance abusers include stress from parents’ marital discord, the influence of peers, and feeling depressed or anxious. In short, the teen may try to explain substance abuse behavior as being his or her reaction to external stimuli and, therefore, not his or her fault.
Another part of the plan should include deciding upon the consequences. If the teen has abused alcohol and drugs in the past and the present instance is a repeat offense, there would likely need to be some sort of immediate consequence as well as consequences for if the behavior continues.
Choose the Right Environment & Confront the Teen
It’s important for the confrontation to occur in an environment that offers safety from distraction and intervention from third parties. Moreover, it should be a place where the teen would feel comfortable and safe, which would likely be the family’s home in a communal living area. Privacy is also important so siblings and other individuals should not be present during the exchange. During the confrontation, parents should refrain from being too aggressive and accusatory as it will make the teen less likely to participate in the conversation.
Compassion and understanding are essential as it will make the teen feel as though the parents are trying to empathize and see the situation from the teen’s point of view. Parents should remember that the most central goal of the confrontation is to understand the factors motivating the teen’s substance abuse behavior—whether due to his or her social group, feelings of depression and anxiety, or some other inner turmoil—so that those factors can be addressed in order to prevent additional substance abuse.
Over the course of the discussion, parents should explain to the teen the dangers of substance abuse, including the health risks and potential sacrifices made in the course of active addiction. Addicts often lose their jobs, financial stability, homes, relationships, and many other prospects, leaving them with only their expensive substance abuse habits. Additionally, parents of teen substance abusers should outline the consequences for substance abuse going forward. A teen’s substance abuse can be an emotional and trying time for a family; however, if handled correctly the parents and teen could gain a better understanding of another perspective of substance abuse and result in the family’s becoming a more united unit.
Explore Substance Abuse Treatment Options Today
If you or someone you love is suffering from a substance abuse disorder and would benefit from addiction treatment, the Palm Beach Institute can help. We have a team of recovery specialists available, offering free consultations and assessments in order to match those suffering from chemical dependency to the therapies that will allow them to regain their sobriety and health. A more fulfilling life is just a phone call today; don’t wait.