Does Your Teen Have Co-occurring Disorders? How to Find Out

When you learn that your child may be abusing drugs or alcohol, it can often come as quite a shock. As parents, we often have an ideal built into our minds regarding our children. We have dreams for their future. We have plans for what they should, or at least what they could, become over the course of their lives. What many parents don’t understand is that drug and alcohol abuse and addiction are treatable, and sometimes the abuse of drugs is a symptom of something else. A co-occurring disorder is a condition that often coincides with drug abuse and addiction and, in some cases, actually contributes to the development of the disease.

Determining Cause and Effect for Co-occurring Disorders

There is a stigma in this country when it comes to mental health issues. Because of this stigma, some teens who may be suffering from a mental health issue will do so in silence to avoid embarrassment or shame, or a conceived loss of affection from those people who mean the most to them. If this happens, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to either “treat” their symptoms or hide from their fear of the repercussions.

It is also possible that drug abuse and addiction can cause a co-occurring disorder to develop where there wasn’t one before. For instance, a boy who is on a track to college and shows a promising future in academics or athletics may become embroiled in drug abuse because “everyone else is doing it.” Gradually, his “harmless” partying becomes more compulsive. His tolerance to the drugs he’s abusing increases and addiction begins to set in. He may begin to experience such effects as:

  • His performance in school may suffer.
  • His relationship with his childhood sweetheart suffers.
  • His relationships with teachers, coaches and classmates suffer.
  • His relationship with you, his parents, also suffers.

Suddenly — or gradually — he realizes that he has changed the course of his life and his future doesn’t look so pristine. He might develop major depression because of these changes. On the other hand, he may become so determined to set things right that he begins to panic, causing intense anxiety.

So, how can you tell which came first: the addiction or the condition? Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to get the very bottom of the situation. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter. In order for treatment to be effective, both conditions must be addressed simultaneously, with evidence-based therapies that can help your son overcome his challenges and return to a path towards success.

How to Find Out if Your Child Suffers From a Co-occurring Disorder

Often, the first response to a concern that your son may be experimenting with drugs or alcohol, or dealing an issue of addiction that has already manifested in his life, is to perform a drug test either at home or through your primary care physician’s office. If you discover that your fears are true, you might immediately think of rehab. All rehabs are not created equally, however, and it is important to determine the full extent of your child’s condition before making any decisions. According to the experts, it is crucially important to treat all diagnoses during drug and alcohol treatment. To accomplish this, it is necessary to call upon the experience and skills of a dual diagnosis treatment center that is well equipped to develop an appropriate and specific treatment plan especially for your son.

Your physician can help determine whether your son is exposing himself to drugs or alcohol. A psychologist can diagnose mental health issues. An experienced treatment center, such as Muir Wood, can blend the two and treat both the mental health issue and the addiction. We have the compassion and dedication necessary to help your son see his way through to the other side; call now.

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