Whether or not you suspect that your teenager has a drug problem, you probably have questions about how the disease of addiction affects teens. Adolescence is an extremely vulnerable time in a young person’s life. Inexperienced teens can become chemically dependent or addicted to drugs or alcohol before they even realize that they’re in danger. Here are a few of the questions that parents frequently ask about teen addiction:
Is My Child at Risk?
It’s impossible to protect teens completely from the risk of drug addiction, but certain factors may help you predict whether your son or daughter will get involved with drugs. According to the 2012 Treatment Episode Data Set, older adolescents have a higher risk for serious drug use and addiction than younger teens. In 2009, close to 1.5 million teens ages 15 to 17 had a substance abuse problem in the United States. Older teens tend to have less parental supervision, combined with a stronger drive for independence.
Other common risk factors for addiction include a family history of alcoholism or drug abuse, exposure to drug use at home, a personal history of physical or sexual abuse, and involvement with peers who believe drug use is acceptable.
When Does Experimentation Become Addiction?
Not every teenager who tries beer, marijuana or tobacco will become addicted to these substances. But it’s important for parents to understand that casual recreational use can lead to full-blown addiction, especially if a teen believes that substance abuse is permissible. Teens with poorly defined limits at home can easily take drug or alcohol use too far. Your teenager’s casual drug use may have turned into addiction if he displays the following changes:
- A compulsive need to get and use drugs
- A sharp decline in performance in school or extracurricular activities
- Signs of poor health, such as weight loss, tremors or pallor
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Aggressive, violent or self-destructive behavior
- Legal difficulties or problems at school as a result of substance use
What Are the Consequences of Teen Addiction?
Many adults try to reassure themselves that drug abuse is “just a stage” or that “he’ll grow out of it.” In fact, addiction is a chronic disease that can have a long-term impact on a teen’s future. Addicted teens are at risk of dropping out of school, failing to find employment, and getting caught in the penal system.
Drug addiction increases the risk of accidental injuries, motor vehicle accidents, communicable disease and neurological damage. According to Clinical EEG and Neuroscience, teenagers who have been drinking heavily for only one to two years show cognitive deficiencies and structural changes in their brains. Heavy marijuana use may produce similar effects over time.
How Can I Talk to My Teen About Addiction?
It’s never easy to talk to a teenager about drug addiction. Adolescents can be fiercely protective of their independence and privacy, and it’s hard for parents to break down those barriers. Even if you’ve lost touch with your teen, it’s possible to express your concerns honestly and openly. Try to maintain a calm, nonjudgmental attitude as you tell your teenager about your fears. Refrain from making threats or accusations, especially if you don’t have concrete evidence of drug use.
If you can’t reach your son or daughter on your own, a professional intervention specialist can be a valuable ally. An interventionist can help you plan a meeting with your teenager in a neutral setting, where you and your loved ones can talk about how drug addiction is affecting your lives. As part of an intervention, the addict is presented with a treatment plan to ensure that he gets the help he needs.
What Kind of Treatment Is Available?
The field of adolescent addiction treatment has grown tremendously in recent years. At one time, teenagers went through the same rehab programs as adults, with no consideration of their developmental stage, psychological issues or academic needs. Today, specialized treatment facilities cater to the needs of troubled adolescents who need help overcoming drug abuse and addiction. The recovery services at a drug rehab center for teens include:
- Psychological assessment
- Intensive psychotherapy
- Group counseling
- Comprehensive family therapy
- Holistic modalities (adventure therapy, equine-assisted therapy)
- On-site tutoring and personalized learning programs
The gender-specific treatment program at Muir Wood, an exclusive residential treatment center in Northern California, is tailored to the needs of teenage boys. We specialize not only in treating substance abuse, but also in helping our clients make the transition from a troubled adolescence to a successful, responsible adulthood. Our admissions counselors are available 24 hours a day to support you in your goal of creating a healthy, stable life for your son.