Treating teen addicts isn’t easy

Treating teen addicts isn’t easy

It’s always a good idea to get sober. When you get clean, you’re not losing something so much as you’re gaining things back. A lot of addictive substances are fairly toxic, so a newly sober person gets their health back. Maintaining an addiction can be expensive; sobriety can put money back in a person’s pocket. Finally, obtaining most drugs can be dangerous – not to mention illegal – so if nothing else, sober people have one less reason to get mugged or worse.

For most adults, sobriety’s a decision they have to make on their own. Whether it comes as a moment of clarity or as the result of an intervention from one’s friends and family, the final decision to quit using and move forward is up to the individual. For teens and adolescents, whose brains haven’t finished maturing yet, it can be a different case.

Teens and addiction

It can be difficult to diagnose addiction in teens, largely because some of the common signs of addiction – mood swings, evasiveness, changing habits – are common in teenagers as they make their way through the rapid changes everybody experiences in their teenage years. The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, recommends parents look for deeper signs like:

  • Changes in peer group
  • Carelessness in grooming, if at all
  • Losing interest in activities they formerly enjoyed
  • Failing relationships with both family and friends

People become addicted to drugs not because they’re bad people, or have a desire to break society’s laws. Addiction happens because drugs essentially change how the brain functions, particularly in the areas of the brain associated with self-control, decision making and memory. Deciding to quit isn’t an easy decision for anyone to make, and it’s a decision even harder for teens to make, as their decision-making abilities are already challenged by their still-developing brains.

Writing for, psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D, outlines several reasons which drive teens toward substance abuse. Drugs can allow a teen estranged from others a way to fit in, or a way to self-medicate for anxiety and depression. Sometimes teens want to stop using, but have no idea how to get out – their new friends may ostracize them, or even threaten them violently if they stop using. This is why seeking professional help if you suspect your teen is using drugs is so important.

What’s the next step after discovering addiction?

NIDA recommends seeking professional help. Doctors can screen for drug use and related conditions. Asking your child’s doctor beforehand if they’re comfortable doing a drug screen on their patients and making referrals to a treatment provider. If not, ask for a referral to another doctor with experience in drug issues. NIDA provides a short video on addiction worth watching for parents and teens.

Make no mistake: finding the appropriate help for your teen’s possible drug problem is going to require work. Treatment is a major life change which will interrupt the lives of your entire family and the journey through treatment is a tough one. However, treatment also works, and will give your teen the tools they need to fight addiction and have a successful, sober life.

White River Academy offers a focused environment for boys aged 12 to 17. In addition to our educational programs, our program will instill character values and promote personal growth in your son. Our parent weekends help repair – and maintain – family bonds and teach techniques to continue positive growth after treatment. We can help your son achieve a positive future. For more information about our programs and registration, please call our 24/7 helpline.

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