Helping a Teen that’s Suffering from Addiction

It can be very difficult to see a teen who is struggling with drug addiction. Once anyone has become addicted to a drug, it often becomes a lifetime problem, as recovery is difficult and requires work every day. Helping a teen suffering from addiction is not easy, but it may be one of the most important things you will ever do.

Why Do Teens Become Addicted to Drugs?

According to the CDC, “Alcohol and other drug use among our nation’s youth remains a major public health problem.” Teens sometimes start abusing drugs and alcohol for a number of reasons. Some may do so because their friends and peers pressure them to try it, and others may start on their own as a way of coping with their problems. Whatever the case, many teens do not realize how dangerous this behavior is and how quickly it can lead to addiction.

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While we do believe that “adolescent brains may be more susceptible to drug abuse and addiction than adult brains,” we know that long-term drug abuse changes the way the brain works, and even that chronic abuse will do so very quickly (NLM). Many factors influence whether or not a teen will become addicted to drugs when abusing them, such as:

  • The type of drug(s)
  • The amount of abuse
  • The consistency of abuse (whether it is chronic or not)
  • The background and family history of the teen

How Can I Help?

suffering from addiction

Teens who engage in substance abuse risk causing serious damage to their development.

You could be the one who helps a teen struggling with addiction. If you know someone who is having these issues, remember these tips as you try to help.

  • Stay calm. The teenager you want to help may become defensive, aggressive, or paranoid if you bring up their drug addiction. Addiction makes people act strangely and behave in a way that they normally would not. Make sure to stay calm above all else and not accusatory.
  • Remember that the person you want to help may have initially chosen to abuse drugs, but if they are truly addicted now, choice has mostly been removed from the equation. The NIDA states, “Over time a person’s ability to choose not [to do drugs] becomes compromised, and seeking and consuming the drug becomes compulsive.” Truly being able to help an addicted teen requires that you remember this.
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  • Do not blame. 
  • Encourage them to talk to you; make yourself available to listen.
  • Do understand the consequences of addiction to the specific substance or substances in order to discuss them with the teen.

Is Treatment Necessary?

Formal treatment is often necessary to help an addicted individual. According to the NLM, “many families are unwilling to look outside the home for help due to concerns about stigma,” but treatment can be very beneficial if your teen is already addicted to drugs. Although “treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective,” it should cater to the needs of the patient (NIDA). Depending on the needs of the addict, therapy, counseling, and medication can be great resources which are often not considered for youths.

Helping a teen who is suffering from addiction is not easy, but remembering to listen and be as supportive as possible are very important factors in your ability to truly lend a hand.

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