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What if My Teen is Using Drugs?
Posted by:Rocco--Friday, October 14, 2011

What if My Teen is Using Drugs?

Adapted from the Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition & Fitness, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.


(Throughout this section, unless otherwise stated, the words drug or drugs will be used to indicate any potentially harmful substance — tobacco, alcohol, prescription medications or illegal drugs.)

Even closely knit families with strong values and ongoing drug-proofing have no guarantee that substance abuse won't affect one or more of their children. The problems may range from a brief encounter with cigarettes to an episode of intoxication (perhaps with legal consequences) to an addiction.

As you begin to cope with one or more chemical intruders in your home, keep the following principles in mind:

1. Don't deny or ignore the problem
2. Don't waste time wallowing in false guilt or wondering who to blame
3. Seek help from professionals experienced with treating drug problems
4. Be prepared to make difficult, "tough love" decisions
5. Do not look for or expect quick-fix solutions
6. Remember the father of the Prodigal Son

1. Don't deny or ignore the problem - If you do, it will worsen until your family life is turned inside out. Take the bull by the horns - be sure to find out exactly how big and ugly the bull is.

The marijuana cigarette you discovered may be a one-time experiment or just the tip of the iceberg.

Talk to your child and anyone else who may know the extent of the problem. You may not like what you hear, but better to get the hard truth now than a regrettable surprise later.

Editor’s Note: Ignoring the Problem is NOT a Solution.

2. Don't waste time wallowing in false guilt or wondering who to blame - Many parents assume a great deal of self-blame when a drug problem erupts in their home. Others waste a lot of time looking for someone to blame for their child’s issues.

Neither one of these actions will help your teen.

Remember that drug users must accept responsibility before they can resolve their issues.

Editor's Note: - the emphasis here is "don't waste time", you have a critical situation that needs immediate attention - there will be a lot of time later to discuss your teen's choice to use.

3. Seek help from professionals experienced with treating drug problems - Talk to your physician, minister or counselor. Seek out a 12 Step Program [or a group like Parent Survival Skills Training – PSST]. They can refer you to a professional who is experienced in dealing with all of your teen’s issues and how it affects your family.

This may include educational sessions, individual and family counseling, medical treatment and long-term follow-up.

If your teen’s behavior is out of control and he is unwilling to acknowledge that there is a problem, a carefully planned intervention by family members and others affected may need to be carried out under the supervision of an experienced counselor.

The goal is to convince the drug user in a firm but loving way of the need for change — NOW.

The confrontation should include specific alternatives for the type of treatment he will undergo and clear-cut consequences if he is not willing to cooperate.

4. Be prepared to make difficult, "tough love" decisions - If you have a drug-dependent adolescent who will not submit to treatment and insists on continuing drug use and other destructive actions, you will need to take the stomach-churning step of informing him that he cannot continue to live in your home while carrying on this behavior.

This will be necessary not only to motivate him to change but to prevent his drug-induced turbulence from destroying the rest of your family.

If you must take this drastic step, it would be helpful to present him with one or more options.

These might include entering an inpatient drug-treatment center, halfway house, boot-camp program, boarding school or youth home, or possibly staying with a relative or another family who is willing to accept him for a defined period of time.

More ominous possibilities may need to be discussed as well, such as making him a ward of the court or even turning him over to the police if he has been involved in criminal activity.

If you continue to shield him from the consequences of his behavior or bail him out when his drugs get him into trouble, [a.k.a. Enable him] he will not change and you will be left with deep-seated anger and frustration.

Editor's Note: Do not be discouraged when your teenager blames you for their problems and tells you how much they hate you – this is their addictive behavior talking.

Do not accept the blame and don’t be overly-concerned with trying to get them to “love” you [a.k.a. Enabling] or convince them how much you love them. Trying to use adult logic/common sense with a teen drug addict is frustrating at best.

5. Do not look for or expect quick-fix solutions -
It is normal to wish for a single intervention that will make a drug problem go away. But one conversation, one counseling session, one prayer or one trip to the doctor will not be enough.

Think in terms of a long term comprehensive response encompassing specific treatment, counseling and aftercare.

Editor’s Note: Since most of our teenage drug abusers rarely go voluntarily into a recovery program, and seldom admit that they have a problem, they generally do not immediately embrace their recovery. Do not be discouraged if it takes several tries before they accept responsibility for their own recovery.

6. Remember the father of the Prodigal Son - Tough love means allowing the consequences of bad decisions to be fully experienced by one who is making those decisions.

It also means that your child knows a parent's love for him is there for him in tough times. Never give up hope, never stop praying, and never slam the door on reconciliation and restoration when your child comes to own his recovery.

Other things to keep in mind:

- Do not be afraid to question your counselor. If something that they say does not feel right with you do not be afraid to speak up, question them or let them know that you disagree. If you need to, do not hesitate to find another counselor.

- Addiction of any kind is a "Family Disease". While your child is working on their recovery; you and your family need professional help to work on your own recovery. If your child returns to the same family situation with unresolved issues the chances of his relapse increase dramatically.

- Someone has to step up and be the adult here - "It's only [tobacco - marijuana - alcohol]", "I would would feel like a hypocrite, I used..." and "He'll turn 18 soon and it will be his problem" are all cop outs. Tobacco, marijuana and alcohol are all highly addictive, and potentially deadly drugs, to your teenager. The longer you wait to get help the more serious the consequences will be.

- Your child's life and their future is more important than your social or professional standing, what your family, friends, neighbors, church, coworkers or boss will think, or their sports, school activity, scholarship or choice of college.

Why Would My Teen Use Drugs?

What are the factors that influence kids to use drugs?

Adapted from the Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition & Fitness

Attitudes - Tobacco, alcohol and other drug-related behaviors among families will usually be duplicated in their children.

Attractiveness – Alcohol and Tobacco are widely promoted as something enjoyed by sophisticated, fun-loving, attractive and sexy people — what most adolescents want to be.

Illegal drugs are "advertised" by those using them in teen peer groups.

Peer-pressure - The need for peer acceptance is especially strong during the early adolescent years and "Just Say No" may not resonate when it comes to peer-pressure mixed with tobacco, alcohol or using drugs.

Curiosity - Unless your family lives in total isolation, your child will be aware of tobacco, alcohol and drug use well before adolescence from talk at school, radio, TV, movies and direct observation. Some curiosity is inevitable.

Thrill-seeking - Unfortunately, many children and adolescents seek drug experiences to produce thrills that they think that normal life can't duplicate.
Rebellion - Teens may engage in tobacco, alcohol and drug use as a show of independence from family norms and values.

Availability of tobacco, alcohol and drugs - Finding tobacco, alcohol or drugs are not difficult for adolescents in most communities – Urban, Suburban, Rural, Affluent, Middle Class or Poor.

Editor’s Note: “Tobacco, alcohol and drugs are equal opportunity destroyers.”

The high induced by drugs - If drug use wasn't pleasurable, it would be relatively easy to keep teens and harmful substances separated. But the reality is that many teens enjoy the way they feel on drugs — at least for a while.

Escape from life/relief from pain - Teens often feel anxious, angry, depressed, oppressed, stressed, bored, unfulfilled. The idea of a chemical "timeout" may look very attractive.

Whether one is down and out or rich and comfortable, substances that bring about relaxation, stimulation or pure escape can be appealing.

A conviction that "it can't happen to me" or that the "consequences don't matter" - Many teenagers and young adults are prone to assume their own invulnerability or immortality, make shortsighted impulsive decisions, or shrug off the most fervent warnings about the pitfalls and perils with a smirk or the defiant pronouncement "I don't care."

Unfortunately, many of them will become deeply involved in drug use and will remain stuck in this immature, self-destructive mind-set.

Adapted from the Complete Guide to Family Health, Nutrition & Fitness, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.






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