Teens receive many different messages about substance abuse from a young age and parents will often make clear how they feel about such matters. Adolescents are of course subjected to many other influences as well including media influence and peer pressure. Though a parent may discourage their teens from using or abusing drugs and alcohol, this will not stop certain adolescents from experimenting as they so choose. When expectations don’t weigh as much as curiosity for the teen, a son may lie to his parents about his use of controlled substances. The question is, just how often does this occur and how should parents respond in such a situation?
Signs of substance abuse
Parents naturally feel they know their child better than anyone else. Nevertheless, there are some observations that may be practiced to better determine if a teen is under the influence of a substance and hiding it. Teens are more likely to abuse a substance that may be readily available around the home including different medications in the medicine cabinet, such as a bottle of cough syrup. Though alcohol and marijuana remain as prevalent as ever, there are of course far more drugs that still have the potential for abuse. Study drugs, for instance, may be used by an adolescent to help with focusing. This may include misusing Adderall, Ritalin or some other stimulant for ADD or ADHD that a friend is lending their child.
The use of the substances around the house can easily graduate into illicit drug use, making it vital for the abuse to be caught as soon as possible. Parents should be sure to trust their instincts and the ability to tell when something is different or unusual by learning what signs to watch for.
Look for unusual changes in a teens eating or sleeping habits. Marijuana may cause an adolescent to eat or sleep more than usual. Amphetamines may instead have the opposite effect on abusers. Also note any changes hygiene that occur, as teens are often otherwise usually concerned about appearance. A teen may withdraw from activities that he has normally found enjoyable in the past either because they are spending more time using or the drug is causing mood changes that increase the desire for social isolation.
One sign that undeniably can be viewed as a red flag is a sudden need for more money than usual. There may also be changes in the teen’s peer group, lies about how leisure time is being spent, broken curfews, poor school performance and more.
When lying occurs
It’s ugly, but true: a teen will probably lie to their parents at some point in the rocky years of adolescence. Embarrassment may follow after using a certain substance because a parent has clearly expressed disapproval thus a teen will lie to avoid feelings of guilt or to avoid the consequences of their actions. While parents may be tempted to express offense, resentment or other emotions, it is encouraged that they should instead remain level headed and seek to determine the reason for the lie. Do explain that lying is not appropriate and how it can be avoided in future circumstances. Keeping this simple will help the adolescent to see a better solution for the future but can also help open up communication about the substance abuse and the possibility that a teen may need help.
If a teen has become dependent on an illicit substance and is unable to curtail their usage, then parents should definitely consider treatment. Whether or not the teen is ready and willing to understand that they need help, treatment is important to avoid serious physical and mental consequences later on. Oftentimes, an adolescent will be resistant as it will be difficult to face the shame of the damage their drug use has caused but even so parents should continue to talk over with their teen why they have a problem and why treatment is in their best interest. By outlining what the consequences of their drug use are, this can hopefully illustrate to the young person why they need help.
While in treatment, parents can still do their part to be supportive of their child’s recovery, asking questions when necessary and learning about the substance abuse recovery process. Participating in family therapy sessions allows them to be part of the treatment process. There should always be a discharge plan in place as well, so that parents can ensure that recovery from the drug dependence is lasting. With parental support along the way, the young person will have much greater odds of being able to overcome their abuse and move forward.