When Your Child Has an Addiction

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It can be very difficult for a parent to watch their child go through a drug or alcohol addiction. Young people have stressors and peer pressure that can make them turn to using drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, parents do not know how to help their children when they are in this situation.

The addiction of young people is something that can affect everyone: family, friends, community, healthcare professionals and even total strangers. It is hard to understand how or why teens or young people can get into that situation. It can be even harder to try to figure out how to stop the rate of addiction from increasing among this population.

We want to help parents who have children struggling with addiction. We also want to see these young people come to a place of recovery. They have a long life ahead of them and we want them to have information about addiction treatment and what is available to them.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a disorder that affects a person’s brain. Using drugs or alcohol makes a person feel good when they first start using them. However, these substances also affect the person’s control center. This is how addictions develop. With every usage, they believe they have control over the amount and the way they are using the drug, but they do not have control. This starts a cycle of constantly thinking about the drug, wanting and needing it, and using it in larger amounts.

Teenagers are still developing their brains. They are at a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder because their brain maturation promotes higher risk-taking. They also have lower sensitivity to the effects of alcohol and other biological factors that desensitize them to some of the sedative effects found in some drugs.

Teens and adolescents are especially vulnerable to having a drug or alcohol addiction. This is why it is vital to be educated about the addictions and risks of those addictions.

Signs of Addiction

A good place for a person to start educating themself is knowing how to recognize addiction. It can be difficult to accept when their own child is the one going through this, but it is important to get them help sooner, rather than later.

Specific symptoms of addiction can be different depending on the substance. Some general signs of addiction can include:

  • Physiological symptoms:
    • When the level of the substance in their body goes low, they might experience withdrawal
    • Appetite changes
    • Diseases or damage in the body
    • Difficulties sleeping
    • Changes in their appearance
    • Increasing tolerance level
  • Psychological symptoms:
    • They may try to quit but are unsuccessful in their attempts
    • They will continue to use even if serious health problems arise
    • They may need the drug to deal with other problems
    • They may develop an obsession with the substance
    • They may have an increase in risk-taking
    • They may use large doses initially
  • Social symptoms:
    • They may sacrifice activities they previously enjoyed, such as doing things with friends
    • They may stop doing favorite activities or hobbies
    • They might keep a constant supply of the drug or alcohol even if they do not really have the money for it
    • They may stay secluded and be secretive
    • They may have denial about their addiction
    • They may end up using large amounts of the substance which could lead to overdose
    • They might have stashed hidden in random places in their house or car
    • They may end up having legal and/or financial difficulties

Statistics of Teen Drug and Alcohol Addiction

In order to understand youth addiction, it helps to look at the statistics. What are young people most addicted to? Where is there an increase or decrease in addiction trends?

The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics released an annual Monitoring the Future survey. This shows the attitudes and drug use of students. These are the findings:

  • 86% of teenagers know someone who smokes, drinks or uses drugs during the school day
  • 50% of teenagers have misused a drug at least one time
  • 43% of college students use illicit drugs
  • 10 million young people, ages 12-29, need substance abuse treatment.
  • 1 in 10 adolescents who have an addiction receive professional treatment.
  • The following are teen drug use by type:
    • Alcohol – 61.5%
    • Marijuana – 45%
    • Any drug (except marijuana) – 19.5%
    • Hallucinogens/LSD – 11.7%
    • Amphetamines – 9.2%
    • Tranquilizers – 7.5%
    • Ecstasy – 4.9%
    • Inhalants – 4.9%
  • 9 out of 10 people who abuse any substance began using them before the age of 18.
  • 74% of adults in a treatment program started using drugs or alcohol before age 17
  • Of students aged 18-24, 97,000 are sexually assaulted in an alcohol-related incident.
  • 20% of college students struggle with alcohol abuse
  • Of young people ages 12-20:
    • 19.3% are current drinkers
    • 12.1% are binge drinkers
    • 2.8% are heavy drinkers
  • 72% of students have consumed alcohol by the end of high school. 37% have consumed by 8th grade.
  • 11% of the alcohol consumed is by teenagers. 90% of that is by binge drinking

What is the Best Way to Help Teens Who Struggle With Addiction?

It can be hard for a parent to know how to help their child without enabling their addiction. It is important for parents, friends or other family members to stress how important it is for the young person to get treatment for their addiction. They should learn about their child’s addiction. This will help them understand why it may have started and what needs to be done for treatment. Then they can create a supportive environment for recovery.

Some other ways for parents to support their children who struggle with addiction are:

  • Do not enable the addiction. This includes:
    • Making excuses for them
    • Covering for them
    • Giving them financial support
    • Paying legal obligations
    • Ignoring suspicious behaviors
    • Picking up their slack
    • Hiding their behaviors
    • Being overly forgiving
    • Dismissing behavior
  • Parents should make sure they are taking care of themselves. Having a child with an addiction can be stressful and self-care is important, including protecting their finances.
  • Have an understanding of denial and be prepared for it. A child can be very convincing to their parents.
  • Be educated about addiction. Two useful places to start are:
  • Use positive reinforcement. This impacts the pleasure center of the brain, which is where addiction starts. The parent should encourage their child to attend meetings, appointments and therapy sessions and give positive feedback when they do.
  • Set and keep healthy boundaries. Parents should make it clear what is and is not allowed in their house.
  • Have reasonable expectations.
  • Encourage the teen to participate in structured family activities.
  • Keep open communication. Even if someone has to keep a distance from their loved one, they should be willing to talk to them when they are ready.
  • Find a support network. There are well-known groups such as SMART Recovery and Al-Anon that can offer support and encouragement to parents in this situation.
  • Know the signs of overdose and know how to handle the situation. Always call 911 if an overdose is suspected.
  • Go to family therapy together. This can often be a part of a rehab program.
  • Find a treatment program and trust the professionals at that program. SpringBoard Recovery has several treatment options available for teens who need drug or alcohol addiction treatment.
  • Consider setting up an intervention. This is a safe place for friends and family to talk to the person openly and honestly. However, it should always be done with a professional therapist leading it. They can have a treatment plan ready and can take the teenager directly to treatment after the intervention is finished.

What Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment is Available for Teens with Addictions?

For teens and young adults who need recovery from addiction, there are several choices for drug and alcohol addiction treatment. These programs are based on an individual’s addiction and needs. Every addiction is different and not every treatment would work in all situations. We recommend a person contact a professional to know what is right for them.

The programs that may be suggested are:

  • Detox – Drugs and alcohol bring harmful toxins into a person’s body. These toxins damage the body and can be harmful or even fatal for the person. Detox removes the toxins from the body. Detox is not necessary for all addictions but is required for some. This is because withdrawal symptoms for those can be dangerous.
  • Inpatient rehab – This is the start of recovery for many people. This is total, around-the-clock care in a facility where they will check into and stay. They will start their therapy sessions while there. This can include a combination of individual and group therapy. The time for this rehab is usually 28-days but long-term is an option if needed.
  • Outpatient rehab – This is a rehab that is good for people who have already been through an inpatient program. They continue their therapy sessions and attend group meetings. They live at home during this rehab.
  • Intensive outpatient programs – IOPs are similar to inpatient programs in the support they offer. But, they let a person live at home during their program. This program lasts around 12 weeks during which they will attend 3-5 appointments a week in the evenings.
  • Partial hospitalization programs – PHPs also allow the person to live at home during their program. The daytime appointments are more demanding than IOPs.
  • 12-step meetings – Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two well-known, outpatient groups. Members can receive support and accountability from these meetings.

How Can SpringBoard Recovery Help Young People Who Struggle With Addiction?

SpringBoard Recovery has several choices for teens and young adults who have found themselves in the cycle of addiction. It is difficult for a person to do on their own and our goal is to help anyone who wants recovery.

We offer many forms of therapy as part of our outpatient programs. Some of those therapies can include:

For those who are coming from out of state SpringBoard Recovery also offers sober living homes. These are not rehab programs but offer support to those who are in a rehab program. These are also good for people who are in a non-supportive living situation.

For those who have a substance abuse disorder and a mental health disorder, we offer treatment for co-occurring disorders. This is commonly found among people with addictions.

Common co-occurring disorders are:

Those who need treatment for both disorders at the same time will receive dual-diagnosis treatment. It is helpful to find the cause of the addiction and treat that. This lessens their likelihood of relapse and increases their chance of success.

More Information For Teens with Addictions

Many young people who begin using drugs or alcohol cannot see how promising their future can be. At SpringBoard Recovery, we want to help young people see that potential again. We want to help them get through recovery so they can live their dreams. The success rate of quitting without help is low and many teens often go on to be long-term substance abusers without help. We want to help prevent that.

Parents are often at a loss as far as what to do about their drug or alcohol-addicted teens. They may feel helpless and as though there are very limited resources available to help them. But we want parents to know that we understand, and the right treatment can make a huge difference.

The help for teens is there. If you are the parent or loved one of a teen with an addiction and you want more information about our drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs, contact us today.


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