Adolescents possess a specific curiosity about what the world has to offer because these are the experimental years to find out what we like and don't like. We experiment to find out who we are as people. But sometimes experimenting with certain things can be dangerous, if not life-threatening. Search YouTube, and you'll find countless videos of young kids jumping off of roofs, 5-story buildings, and basically anything that will give them that adrenaline rush. But to some, adrenaline is no longer enough, so we begin experimenting more precariously outside the realm of normalcy to find a better high. It's challenging to try and explain addiction to teenagers in their prime years of rebellion. Ask them to do something, and they'll do the opposite, but ask them not to do something, and they'll make it their mission to do it.
Among the students enrolled in high school, about 12% meet full diagnostic criteria for substance abuse or dependence. Almost three-quarters of the student population will try cigarettes, marijuana, alcohol, or cocaine. Based on the students with the medical criteria for addiction, 90% will begin smoking and drinking alcohol before the age of 18. Between 1 in 4 Americans who use addictive substances will become addicted compared to the 1 in 25 Americans who begin using after the age of 21. The range of unfavorable outcomes includes high school dropouts, strained family relationships, and delinquency.
So how do we deal with an adolescent if they show signs of using? It's been proven that if an adolescent were to experiment with drugs, they're more likely to become long-term users with a better chance of developing psychiatric issues along the way. Most adult abusers will admit to having first used drugs during adolescence. Still, first, we need to spot the signs, and the easiest way to do that is by using your senses. After your child comes home from socializing, chances are if they smoked or drank alcohol, it'll be easy to detect it on their breath or clothes. How about pay attention to their eyes. If their high, theirs will most likely look red and glossy.
And last but not least, check for secrecy. If the child is reluctant to give out any information about where they're headed, or why they're always late, then they're keeping something from you. Anger and defensiveness is a vital sign. No need for secrecy if it's as they claim "no big deal." The second they start lying to you is when you can begin searching in their rooms. They lost the privilege of privacy the moment they lied to you, and actions have consequences. Now, the minute you find something that's not supposed to be there, the next step is a constructive conversation between you and your child.
Prepare to be called all kinds of names, like a hypocrite if you've ever experimented with drugs. But, there are ways around that, and you can even use it to your advantage! Click this link to download a guide on the very talking points you'll need to succeed if you have experienced with drugs as well, and need to confront your child of the same unfortunate curse of a potential addiction: https://drugfree.org/download/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-drugs-if-you-did-drugs/
Expect anger from every angle, but make sure you remember to remain calm. The ultimate goal is to try and fix it within the home first. No need to pay for outside help if you haven't even tried yet. It would be best if you had faith in your parenting skills first before spending a fortune on therapy. This will develop a bond and trust towards your child. Many gain resentments if they were to get thrown into counseling without ever trying. Trust me, they'll remember the attempts you've made or lack thereof. Kids aren't idiots, they're like sponges, absorbing everything they can from their surroundings. Some may start experimenting with drugs due to a lack of acknowledgment in the home, or something going on that they aren't conveying to you. Communication is key! In my opinion, they don't want to be thrown at a random counselor who doesn't know the first thing about them. And still, I'm just speaking from personal experience.
I may be a firm believer in trying it out first for yourself, but I do not exclude therapy in any way. It's what saved me in the end. I began attending at around 16 years old; when my parents and I both didn't know what else to do about me. I had these confusing feelings going on inside of me that I couldn't control or understand. At the time, I wasn't quite entirely into my addiction yet, and I never had anyone addicted in my family to guide me through the changes I was going through. So the minute their moods change drastically is when you involve therapy. Certain therapy studies are found to be effective. First are the family therapy models that target the entire family system. Therapists can recognize how each family member plays a significant role in the process relating to substance abuse in adolescence. The approach is to acknowledge the multiple factors that play into their behavior. Addiction is a family disease. Adolescent substance abuse usually stems from the home, but that's not to say it's your fault. The child may need something that they merely aren't vocalizing, and adolescence is not the time to let them run wild.
What's important for parents to remember is not to blame the child for their addiction, or even yourself. Addiction is no one's fault in the end. They didn't go into it, expecting to get addicted to anything. They're not experienced enough to know what they're even doing to themselves. In their eyes, they're only thinking about one thing: how to get high. I wish my family was more educated in addiction because that's ultimately what fueled my disease, the dismissal of my rebellion. My parents allowed me to do what I wanted without any consequences. Whenever my dad grounded me, my mother lifted it. Make sure you go in on a solid forefront with both you and your partner. As long as you're both united, you could reduce the chances of your child becoming addicted. Also, always and listen to your gut. There's no playbook on addiction. We learn as we go, and hope that our child makes the right choice in the end. We can only give them the tools to be better. We can't do it for them, but we can most certainly make a positive impact.