Adolescent Substance Abuse
Being a teenager is often a confusing, challenging time, which can make teens vulnerable to falling into a destructive pattern of drug use. While most teens probably see their drug use as casual and as a way to have fun, there are negative effects that are a result of this use of alcohol or other drugs. Even if adolescent drug use does not necessarily lead to adult drug abuse, there are still risks and consequences of adolescent drug use, usually including a drop in academic performance or interest, and strained relationships with family or friends.
Adolescent substance abuse can greatly alter behavior, and a new preoccupation with drugs can crowd out activities that were previously important. Drug use can also change friendships as teens begin to associate more with fellow drug users, who encourage and support one another’s drug use. For adolescents, these changes as a result of substance abuse signal a problem in the teen’s environment, and should be seen as a call to action for parents, teachers, or friends to seek help for their loved one.
The sooner you can recognize that you or your teen is abusing alcohol or other drugs, the sooner you can seek help. The sooner you seek help the better, so parents must learn to be good observers of their children, especially of the smaller details in their child’s life. While your teen will probably call you a nag or become annoyed with the constant questions, it is more important to make sure that you know what is going on in your child’s life, so that if a problem does arise you can take rapid action.
There are some things to look for in your adolescent’s behavior that may be indications of drug use, which include changes in appearances, friends, behavior, and interests. Indications of substance abuse may include:
- physical evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia
- behavior problems and a drop in academic performance
- emotional distancing, depression, or fatigue
- changes in mood, eating patterns, or sleeping patterns
- change in friendships
- increased hostility or irritability
- decrease in interest in personal appearance
- lying or increased evasiveness about school or weekend activities
If your teen exhibits these behaviors, they may have a problem with substance abuse, and the sooner you seek help for them, the better.
Once teens start using drugs, they are not usually motivated to stop. For many teens, drugs are a pleasurable way to escape from the pressures of teenage life, so there is no incentive for them to stop. Because of this, it is important that parents and friends are involved in encouraging adolescents to enter treatment in order to help them achieve a drug free lifestyle.
There is a variety of treatment programs for adolescent substance abuse, and when seeking help for a loved one, it is important that the treatment program that you choose suits their individual needs.
Treatment for adolescent substance abuse usually includes:
- Detoxification: Detoxification is for adolescents who need safe, medically supervised relief from withdrawal symptoms when they first enter a rehabilitation program.
- Residential Rehabilitation: Residential rehabilitation is for teens who cannot stop using without 24 hour supervision. Teens in residential rehab are individuals who have continues to use despite knowledge of the risks and consequences, or have continued to use despite previous attempts to stop. In a residential rehab program, these teens can learn and practice new skills that will help them in recovery. Residential programs may include individual and group therapy, 12-step programs, and relapse prevention.
- Intensive Outpatient Program: Intensive outpatient programs are for teens who have committed to staying drug free, but need treatment after school to prevent use and promote recovery. These programs can also include adolescents who have already completed residential treatment, but feel that they need further support in the transition back into daily life. These programs usually rely on support from friends and family.
- Aftercare/continuing care: These programs are a very important part of recovery, and help adolescents to maintain a drug free lifestyle. These programs usually include family support groups, or alumni support groups of people who have also completed a treatment program to provide support for the adolescent in recovery.
These treatment programs are designed to teach adolescents skills that will help them to maintain their recovery and to sustain a drug-free lifestyle.