With a little help from my friends: How friends can help or hinder recovery

drug treatment support

Friedrich Nietzsche warned people of the 19th century about the dangers of peer pressure, “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

For a teenager in recovery or treatment for substance abuse, the peer pressure from friends can be the deciding factor in relapse or a life of sobriety.

Don’t let people get in the way

The National Institute on Drug Abuse, NIDA, explains the different causes of substance abuse in teens. The environment a teen grows up in can be a leading factor in experimentation with substance use “including the availability of drugs within the neighborhood, community, and school and whether the adolescent’s friends are using them.”

No matter how moralistic the child is raised to be, teenagers grow up in a society affected by substance use and influence. Especially in groups of friends who use harmful substances. A teenager can be pressured into substance use at parties or other social gatherings, as substance use in youth is more common than some may realize.

More than 44,000 students participated in the 2015 Monitoring the Future Study, available on the NIDA website, a study measuring adolescent substance use. Results showed, that year, around 26 percent of eighth graders, 47 percent of 10th graders and 64 percent of 12th graders had continued to abuse alcohol. While, close to 45 percent of high school seniors were abusing marijuana.

A teenager attempting to continue a life of sobriety, may have difficulty being at a concert or party with the trigger substance present. What family members and friends may not realize is that they play a crucial role in a teen’s recovery.

Regardless of age, treatment needs to take into account the life of the individual, “including his or her developmental stage and cognitive abilities and the influence of family, friends, and others in the person’s life, as well as any additional mental or physical health conditions,” NIDA explains.

How can we help?

Family and friends will have a significant role in helping the patient continue the practices from treatment. Listening, praising diligence and offering or participating in healthy alternatives to previous triggers are keys to successful support.

A proper treatment program will offer advice and services on where a teenager can find the right continuing care program after formal rehabilitation ends. From groups such as alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous to assertive community care programs, teenagers can find support. Similar to assertive community care programs, trained professionals work with patients and caregivers, to prevent relapse and teach positive activities.

Parents and friends can be there to motivate a loved one when times get rough and these programs also help, “Provide a community setting where fellow recovering persons can share their experiences, provide mutual support to each other’s struggles with drug or alcohol problems,” NIDA adds.

In the cases where friends or classmates may have been the cause of the substance abuse, time spent away from those surroundings may benefit treatment.

White River Academy is a boarding school for troubled boys from ages 12 to 17, struggling with issues at school and interpersonal problems. The academy provides treatment and care for the boys through disciplined guidance, continues a strong education program and instills character values with service projects promoting positive growth. For more information or to register, feel free to call 866-520-0905.

Written by Nick Adams.

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