Part three of this four-part series will provide you with the information you need to determine whether your child is using drugs—including alcohol—and what to do about it. Read part two, Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use in Adolescents.
If your suspicions are confirmed and you learn that your family is experiencing teen drug abuse, taking a measured approach to solving the problem will result in the best outcome. Panicking won’t change anything, and it will likely make teen drug abuse worse. Staying calm and level-headed will help you approach the problem carefully and mindfully.
Here are four basic steps to take when you learn that your child is engaging in teen drug abuse.
1. Learn everything you can about the drug of abuse.
Learning about the drugs your child is taking will arm you with information you can use when you talk to them about the abuse. Find out all you can about the drug, including how it affects brain function, the effects it has on mood, its withdrawal symptoms and short-term and long-term side effects.
2. Talk to your child.
It’s important to approach the conversation from a place of love and to remain calm no matter what. Set your fear and anger aside, and stay focused on what you want for your child moving forward.
These tips will help ensure a productive conversation:
- Don’t have the talk when your child is under the influence.
- Sit down for the conversation. Ask your child to turn off their phone while you talk.
- Start the conversation with an expression of love.
- Present your evidence or suspicion of teen drug abuse, and encourage your child to be honest with you.
- Be prepared for your child to react with denial, anger or hostility or—if you have your own history of drug or alcohol use—turning the tables.
- If the conversation becomes too heated, end it—for now. Try again later.
- Don’t condemn or give your child a guilt trip for teen drug abuse.
- Try to find out why your child uses drugs. Is it because they have anxiety or depression? Because they feel pressured or want to fit in? Because they like the way they make them feel?
- Make an effort to understand where they’re coming from.
- Be honest about any addiction that runs in your family. A family history of addiction increases your family’s risk of teen drug abuse, and it can serve as a cautionary tale as well as help to de-stigmatize addiction.
3. Find a high-quality treatment program.
Your child doesn’t have to be addicted to drugs to benefit from therapy. But if they are addicted, treatment will be essential for ending the drug abuse and preventing a relapse. Choosing the right treatment program for your child will produce the best possible outcomes. A high-quality treatment program will:
- Use research-based treatment therapies
- Create an individualized treatment plan for your child
- Involve the whole family in treatment
- Adhere to the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s Principles of Effective Treatment1
- Have a fully licensed and trained staff
- Have comfortable, safe and welcoming facilities
- Offer an aftercare plan once treatment is complete
4. Get support, and engage in therapy.
Addiction is a family disease.2 It affects every member of the household and can lead to dysfunctional coping skills as the family tries to maintain normalcy despite the often-unsettling effects of teen drug abuse. When your child enters recovery, the whole family is in recovery.
Joining a support group for friends and family members of addicted individuals provides you with moral support as your family works to end teen drug abuse, repair the damage and improve family functioning. A support group gives you and other family members a place to vent negative emotions, ask questions and celebrate milestones. Other families going through similar circumstances with teen drug abuse share tips, strategies and resources for helping your child successfully recover.
Individual therapy for family members can also make a big difference in your child’s recovery from teen drug abuse. Therapy helps you identify your own dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns as well as help you set and enforce meaningful rules and boundaries in the home.
Come back on March 22 to read part four, The Role of Family in Addiction Counseling: How to Support Your Child in Treatment and Beyond, or download the entire series now as a fully illustrated eBook: