Parenting a teenager is generally tricky, and dealing with one abusing alcohol or drugs can be particularly trying for the whole family. What parents should know about teen substance abuse is that it’s a reality many face, as many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol. The more you know about the factors that lead young people to experiment with alcohol and drugs, the better equipped you will be to help them avoid harmful behaviors and seek assistance if they need it.
First and foremost, it’s important to recognize that substance abuse can affect any household. This is not a reflection on the parent or the child. Adolescent brains are hardwired for exploration and risk-taking as they develop into adults. Teens need to take risks, some of which pay off (like going for a new job, auditioning for a play, or running for student council), while others can land them in hot water.
There is no guarantee that a teen who tries alcohol or drugs will develop an addiction. Substance abuse, if begun at a young age, increases the risk of addiction. It is important to acknowledge that addiction is a complex disease that causes profound changes in a person’s brain and the ways in which they think, act, and feel. It does not indicate a lack of parental control or character flaw in the adolescent.
While parents should not be held accountable for their teen’s decision to experiment with substances, they can aid in finding solutions by learning about the issue.
Did you know? Adolescents commonly experiment with alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco.
Underage drinking and possession are illegal in the Lone Star State.
I bet you didn’t know that by the time they’re seniors, roughly 66 percent of teenagers have already tried alcohol. Children who drink alcohol risk social isolation, poor academic performance, and family discord. The three leading causes of death among young people are accidents, homicides, and suicides, and alcohol is almost always a contributing factor in all three.
Except for those who have joined the military at the age of 18, no one under the age of 21 is allowed to purchase tobacco products.
Approximately 40% of high school students have tried tobacco. Teens now prefer e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, to tobacco cigarettes. The highly addictive nicotine and other harmful ingredients in cigarettes and e-cigarettes pose a serious health risk to young people.
In Texas, possessing marijuana is illegal at any age.
Roughly half of all juniors and seniors have tried marijuana. The most common substance interaction in teen car crashes involves the simultaneous use of marijuana and alcohol.
Roughly 20% of students in their 12th year have tried a medication that normally requires a doctor’s prescription.
Most commonly abused prescription drugs include opioid pain relievers, tranquilizers/sedatives, and stimulants (like Adderall). All medications prescribed by a doctor should be kept in a secure location and administered only when prescribed. For advice on keeping kids of all ages safe from the side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medicine, check out Medication Safety Tips.
Is There A Reason Why So Many Young People Try Drugs And Alcohol?
Adolescents are on a developmental path toward adulthood that predisposes them to experiment with new things. As they try to define who they are in the world, they may experiment with many different looks and genres of music. Some young people try drugs because they are under intense social pressure to do so. Teens often experiment with drugs and alcohol for other reasons, such as:
- To have a good time with other people.
- As a means of relieving stress when they are by themselves.
- For personal or academic advancement.
- To venture into uncharted territory.
- To mature up a bit.
These explanations make sense and are easy to grasp. Understanding why your teen might be tempted to experiment with substances can help you have more fruitful conversations with them and guide them away from risky choices.
What are the warning signs that your teen may be abusing substances?
In their adolescence, many young people experience periods of depression, withdrawn behavior, excessive sleepiness, and carelessness. A child’s engaging in these activities does not necessarily indicate that they are engaging in substance abuse. But if you notice a drastic shift in your adolescent’s demeanor or personality, or if his or her behavior suddenly becomes more extreme, you may want to investigate the possibility of substance abuse.
Indicators to keep an eye out for include:
- Modifications to disposition and character, such as persistent apathy, sadness, silence, hostility, anger, or secrecy on the part of your adolescent. But he could also appear erratic, hyperactive, or lacking in self-control.
- Alterations to his customary conduct include withdrawing from his usual social circle, abandoning his favorite hobbies, or becoming secretive about his whereabouts and activities. He may start to dislike school, which could lead to absenteeism or disciplinary problems. You could also experience extended bouts of sleeplessness and high energy, followed by lengthy bouts of recuperative sleep.
- Changes to personal care and presentation include becoming slovenly or forgetting to shower, emitting the odor of smoke or other foreign substances, or displaying a flushed, reddened complexion.
- Changes to his physical well-being include excessive fatigue or malaise, rapid or dramatic weight gain or loss, or slurred speech.
Discussing Substance Abuse: How To Have “The Talk.”
The initial reaction you might have upon learning that your teen is abusing drugs or alcohol is anger, fear, and even shame. Keep in mind that your teen’s substance abuse is not a reflection on you or your family. If you feel yourself getting angry, it’s best to wait until you’ve calmed down before reacting. Below is a list of ideas that could prove helpful:
The best time to have a conversation with your teen is when both of you are relaxed and focused.
Put down the phones and pay attention to what I’m saying. Plan out your next steps carefully in advance. One way to do this is to ask questions that demonstrate interest and concern rather than judgment, which can help set a more positive tone for the conversation. A better question than “Why did you come home drunk last night?” One possible response to “How did you let that happen?” is, “You smelled like alcohol when you came home last night.” “What is happening? For what reason are you drinking?” If your child denies their behavior or responds with “I don’t know” or “I don’t want to talk about it,” try being firm and restating your concern: “I know what I smelled and what I saw last night. Before we talk about the repercussions, I’d like more information on why this occurred. Let me get a better grasp on this.”
Keep your emotions in check, and never tell your kid that he disappointed you.
Put him in a position where he has to earn his allowance by doing extra work or being grounded if he continues to act out. Next, you and your partner should consider proactive measures you can take to avoid relapse to substance abuse, such as enhancing your time management and health habits, trying new things, or scheduling regular check-ins to discuss your progress.
Strategies To Lessen Your Teen’s Vulnerability To Substance Abuse
You have a significant impact on your child’s life by teaching them about the dangers of substance abuse and by establishing rules and expectations for how they should act. Your long-term actions and attitudes will influence your child to make healthier choices when it comes to substance use.
- Make it known that you think drug use and drinking by minors are unacceptable. Neither do drugs nor excessive alcohol, and you’ll be setting a good example for others.
- Be interested in your teen’s circle of friends and his extracurricular pursuits.
- It’s important to have a comfortable setting in which you and your teen can discuss sensitive topics.
- It’s important to have a conversation with your adolescent about the long-term risks associated with drug and alcohol use and the short-term consequences, such as losing a sport or academic privileges or getting arrested or hurt.
Getting your adolescent the assistance they need.
Many first-time drug or alcohol users among young people are able to control themselves. While others require assistance in breaking their addiction. Talk to your child’s doctor if you’re worried about substance abuse, and research local treatment facilities.
- Through one-on-one and family sessions, the Family and Youth Success program can assist you and your loved ones in resolving any issues or adjusting to life’s challenges. Get online and do some research on local service providers.
- There is inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment available in your area, and the state of Texas’s Outreach, Screening, Assessment & Referral program can help you find it. There are two ways to get directions: either dial 2-1-1 or 877-541-7905 to speak with an information specialist (toll-free).
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