We have thirty years of experience in family and relationship therapy. We teach healthy parenting skills especially with difficult adolescents and young adults. We help families deal with addiction as well as depression and anxiety that affect the family system
PARENTAL FOCUS ON SUBSTANCE ABUSE WITH TEENS
• Nearly 65% of teens “try” cigarettes before reaching 17. Of these, nearly 52 percent will become “regular” smokers, smoking from 2-10 cigarettes on a daily basis.
• Of the teens who smoke cigarettes, 65% will try marijuana; of those, 49% will smoke marijuana on a regular basis.
• Of the teens who smoke marijuana, 65% will experiment with other drugs, anything from inhalants and crystal meth to heroin.
• Of the teens who smoke marijuana, 71% will use alcohol.
• Of the 58% of teens who drink alcohol, 82% will develop a serious drinking problem.
• Teens that “try” or “experiment” with “gateway drugs” are 266 times more apt to use hard drugs.
• Of the 65% who experiment with other drugs, 47% will become “addicted.”
Substance abuse is often a major contributor to the three leading causes of death among teenagers and young adults: car accidents, homicides, and suicides. In San Diego County alone, each year about 2,500 youth find themselves in need of emergency room treatment as a result of drug or alcohol-related injuries.
Acting prudently and decisively is imperative when you have indications that your teen may be using. However, it is also important not to jump to conclusions, even when you notice several of the signs listed below as visible changes in your teen’s behavior; many of these signs are indicative of normal teenage development and adjustments. It is always important to honor your intuition, since you know your teens the best. When in doubt, have your teen assessed by a professional.
Physical signs of abuse are slowed speech and motor retardation with unexplained weight loss or weight gain. You may notice either hypersomnia or insomnia and hyperactivity along with poor hygiene and bloodshot eyes and dilated pupils.
Psychological signs may include an inability to concentrate with increased outbursts of frustration and anger, and may also include increased aggressiveness, sullenness, evasiveness and lying. They may also complain of medical or emotional problems, like stomach distress or paranoid or suicidal ideation with depression. You may notice increased secrecy about your teen’s belongings, activities or even new friends. You may notice extreme mood swings: upbeat one minute, followed by withdrawal or anger and rage the next.
Social and behavioral signs include disintegrating relationship with parents and siblings, with changes in friends and evasiveness. Your teen may suddenly be hanging out with new friends you do not know. Money or valuables might disappear. Teens may spend a longer time in the bathroom or avoiding contact. They may start to be tardy or truant at school with deteriorating grades and display less discipline, lower energy or loss of interest in sports or clubs. You may detect unusual smells on their clothes or encounter drug paraphernalia or drug-related slogans on their belongings.
Things you can do to get the support you need include educating yourself about symptoms and signs of substance use, learning about the symptoms and warning signs of substance abuse and the effects of addiction, and doing your own research through reading books and searching the Internet for how to get help for your situation.
Talk with your teen about alcohol or drugs from a solid knowledge-base. As a parent, it is important to understand the emotional and psychological needs of your child and the stage of development your adolescent is going through that effects and is effected by substance abuse and addiction. You must realize that, because they are separating and individuating from the family, they are moving away from family as the primary influence. They are embarking on attempts to be independent and become their own person. Adolescents gravitate to their peers as a source of self-esteem, belonging, connection and acceptance.
All teens, not just those in recovery, need to understand all phases of “addiction,” including what leads to “relapse.” Teens need encouragement, help and support in translating feelings of inadequacy and shame into motivation (actions) for diligently “working” a recovery program. Parents and teens need to realize that relapse actually begins BEFORE a return to using; it starts with a return to “using behaviors,” the most common of which is complacency about recovery—such as putting in less time and effort. They need to be able to recognize relapse behaviors as signs/symptoms indicating they may be on the verge of relapse, and hence, take action immediately, such as reaching out to their sponsor, counselors, or parents.
The chance of relapse always exists unless they continually work on how they cope with the stress and strain of daily life, and crisis times as well. They especially need to be able to identify those “triggers” most likely to create a desire/decision to use. They need to have developed a “back up plan,” what they will use should “X” happen (such as a huge argument with mom/dad or friend/boy/girlfriend and feel like drowning their feelings via using).
Teens need help and support in moving from shame to gaining self-respect and self-esteem, and this needs to be on-going as they progress in recovery. They need hope and inspiration, to hear and learn about others who have made it through these times, reaching their dreams and how to set and achieve goals.
If you find your adolescent is addicted to substances, it is important to realize that addiction is a disease that affects their values and self-esteem. Remember that they may have violated or rejected the values that they were taught. They may have acted dishonestly, may have stolen from you, or hurt you or others they love. They may be angry and oppositional, but are actually feeling guilty, ashamed and lost about their behaviors. Helping them give up their using friends may be difficult, but recovery will be nearly impossible if they don’t. Developing a regard complex with a new set of sober people can be awkward at first. But as they move into greater sobriety, their ability to live a successful, independent life and to foster a congruent self-image will increase. Take action and then your values and self-esteem will follow.
Remember, it is never too early or too late to start! You need to openly discuss your thoughts about alcohol or drug use, clearly stating your expectations, being authoritative rather than authoritarian in your approach. Encourage conversation that is two-sided. Listen without interruption. Maintain open, trusting communication and express clear, consistent messages about alcohol or drug use. Avoid confronting your teen when you think he or she might be under the influence. It may be very difficult to keep calm and talk. As a parent, you have the power to influence your teen’s decisions.
Guide your teen and enable him or her to make better choices that will lead them to safer, healthier lives. They need to know that it is because you love them that you want to keep them safe and point them in the right direction.
Dr. Paul Standal is here as a professional counselor that can act as a support in facilitating sobriety and recovery and to help with the family dynamic that drug use effects.
The job is to maximize strengths and increase coping and self-soothing skills.
Denial: roadblock to recovery – filters and justifies using:
• I can stop any time I want
• I don’t have a problem
• I’m fine…even my friends think so
• I promise not to use anymore
• My life is crazy, but not because of drugs or alcohol
Road block: abstinence is not synonymous with recovery
Roadblock: Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS) – symptoms return 7 to 14 days after using and end 6 months to 2 years after abstinence.
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