Last updated: 05/1/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Any addiction is scary for the person dealing with it and their friends and family. When you are the parent of a teen, watching your child suffer from addiction is crippling.
It is significant to acknowledge that starting to use drugs and/or alcohol at an early age puts one at greater risk of developing an addition. If you combine that trait with genetics, brain make-up, psychology, and/or environment, you have an addiction waiting to happen.
Teenagers naturally push against boundaries, attempting to live independently on one hand and depending upon their families just as much on the other. Because of this uncertainty, the teen years are often a breeding ground for testing. Even a brief expedition into drug use can, especially for a pre-disposed teen, be the fast track for addiction.
The first step is determining the extent of your child’s substance abuse disorder.
Addiction is the failure to stop abusing substances even when a person urgently wants to because the substance abuse is negatively affecting their life. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states: “Addiction is defined as a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”
The brain of a teenager has not fully developed, so any changes are exponentially harmful. In addition, teens are transitioning into taking control of their own lives. Being controlled by an addiction further undermines their sense of self and their self-control. Rehabilitation is a necessary step to halting negative brain changes and regaining control.
Drug and alcohol treatment programs are spread across the world and across individual countries. For some teens, remaining close to home may better allow them to feel comfortable and supported. Others may need the distance to feel free enough to really work on their sobriety. The distance from home differs for each teen, so the family should discuss this in some detail before rushing into treatment.
The cost of gaining treatment is often a stumbling block for families. There are options. Many quality programs are state funded. Others may accept your insurance. Some have payment plans. Be sure to pick a program that your family can pay for, otherwise your teen may have to leave before treatment is complete. Additionally, if the treatment compromises your family’s well-being it places tremendous pressure on an already fragile teen.
Generally, it is best for teens to attend a program geared toward the teen addict. These facilities will have more experience assigning medications and dosages that interact well with a teen population. Therapy will take into account the trials of adolescence. Socializing with teen peers will enhance social skills that may have been stunted by drug use. Further, the support of peers is extremely valuable in relation to positive peer pressure.
Also consider cultural, religious, and gender factors. The more specialized you can make it, the more likely it is to work.
According to US News and World Reports, “A new study reveals that 90 percent of Americans who are addicted to tobacco, alcohol or other substances started smoking, drinking or using drugs before they were 18 years old.” Your teen is likely one of them. But, your teen can also be one of the ones who got clean and sober.