Substance abuse and teens: A parent’s response

safety mistakes

Rick knew it was late and the party had taken a turn as other teens had continued drinking and some were smoking marijuana as well. Rick knew that along with his friends, none of them was fit to drive home but Rick is afraid to call his parents to get picked up. What would they say? What would they do to him if they knew he had been drinking? Rick shrugged his shoulders, got his keys and unlocked the car.

Fear and accusations

The fear of being caught abusing substances does not always stop the teen from experimenting but will entice them to keep their use a secret. On one side, there is the frightened and substance-using teenager – on the other side, you have the furious parent who is just as frightened as the teen.

The 2015 Monitoring the Future Study finds around 34 percent of 12th graders abuse alcohol, 23 percent abuse illicit drugs and around 68 percent view regular marijuana use as nonlethal.

Mayo Clinic offers advice for speaking with teens on abusing substances. Parents need to set ground rules for substance abuse before the teen years. “Rules might include leaving a party where drug abuse occurs and not riding in a car with a driver who’s been using drugs,” Mayo Clinic explains. The conversation should include describing the consequences or punishment with the teen.

The dreaded word: Intervention

In some cases though, a teen may need more than the encouragement to keep safe above all else. Some teens fall prey to substance addiction and, when this occurs, a stronger form of assistance, like an intervention, may be necessary.

An intervention does not need to be grandiose and can only include the parents. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers several pages on the proper way to initiate and execute an intervention with one’s teen. When it comes to an intervention, “It is not an attack on that person, and it doesn’t always need to be followed by rehab,” the Partnership explains.

The Partnership introduces two separate forms of intervention: formal and informal. The formal intervention is prepared in advance and involves the family, “Explaining to your teen how her drug habits and resulting behaviors are affecting their lives,” according to the website.

While the formal intervention is ideal for one who has refused treatment before, the informal intervention is a conversation between a parent and child. After a child uses a substance for the first time, parents need to ask questions and listen to the answers. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America explains this may, “Lead you and your teen to figure out the next steps toward a healthier lifestyle you both agree upon.”

Parents need to withhold judgment and instead, build a place of care for the teen. The situation at the beginning of this article is a result of feeling too afraid of judgment to seek aid from parents.

In the cases where an intervention is ineffective and a teen continues to abuse substances, becoming a danger to himself and those around him; a change of scenery may help. White River Academy is a therapeutic boarding school for boys ages 12 to 17, struggling with substance abuse and internal behavioral issues. Through disciplined guidance and a strong education program, the students are able to receive treatment and continue their education for a brighter future.

Leave a Comment

Scroll to Top