In today’s digital age, parents are confronted with a host of new threats to their children’s safety. Even worse, age-old dangers like drug or alcohol abuse continue to rear their ugly heads.
Unfortunately, even when teens are educated about the dangers of alcohol and drugs at school and home, temptation from friends can be hard to resist. That’s why it’s so important for parents to be able to accurately spot signs of abuse. By learning more about the common signs of addiction, parents can help their teens escape the cycle of dependency before the problem grows out of control.
Teens Are Vulnerable to Substance Abuse
Teens make look like shorter adults, but there are many factors that make them far more vulnerable to drug or alcohol abuse than adults. In fact, researchers have compared the brain’s response to certain stimuli in teenagers and adults. They found a vast difference between the way adolescent and adult brains responded when subjects were offered a reward.
The nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that reacts to positive activities like eating or positive physical contact. Not surprisingly, drugs and alcohol activate this region as well. In teens, when their brains received a reward, the part of the brain involved in habit-formation also responded more strongly. As a result, teenage brains naturally begin to form habits faster than adults.
In large part due to their developing brains, adolescents are notorious for being impulsive and not thinking things through. Drugs and alcohol exacerbate these tendencies. Already more prone to risky behavior, teens never expect that their behavior could lead up to an addiction. They are that much more vulnerable to physical dependency because of this careless attitude.
Signs of Teen Drug or Alcohol Addiction
Frequent drug or alcohol abuse causes changes in behavior in teens and adults alike. Parents who suspect drug or alcohol abuse should look for these warning signs:
• A sudden decline in academic performance
• Drug paraphernalia like roll-ups, syringes, and burnt teaspoons
• Glazed eyes or vacant expressions
• Suddenly changing friend groups
• Losing interest in social activities
• Seeming jittery at times, strangely calm at others
• Memory problems
• Unexplained injuries
• Rapid weight fluctuation
• Money or objects missing around the house
Though some items on this list might seem obvious, it’s not uncommon for parents to justify or explain away their worst fears when it comes to their kids. Recognizing a teen’s addiction as early as possible is crucial to their long-term success in recovery. If you suspect your child is addicted to alcohol or drugs, seek treatment immediately.
How to Prevent Drug or Alcohol Abuse in Teens
One in 10 kids between the ages of 12 and 17 is currently using illegal drugs. Parents can protect their teens by taking a more proactive approach.
The following are just a few strategies that parents can take to set firm boundaries with their kids about drugs and how to respond when their teens make a mistake:
• Set expectations: Make sure your kids know certain rules are not negotiable. That way, if trouble starts, you have the authority to take control.
• Take mental health issues seriously: Teens who suffer from anxiety, depression, ADHD and eating disorders are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.
• Don’t treat drug use like harmless experimentation: Drug and alcohol use exposes your teen to a long list of other risks that can put them in peril. Sometimes “kids being kids” is extremely dangerous.
• Don’t cast blame: Blaming yourself or your spouse causes more stress and division. Focus on getting help for your child’s drug or alcohol abuse.
• Model appropriate behavior: If you abuse alcohol or drugs, you must recognize that your teen is more likely to follow in your footsteps.
• Keep track of prescriptions: According to the CDC, one in five teens experiments with prescription medication, and most of them get the drugs at home.
• Consider your family history: Some scientists have gone so far as to suggest there is an addiction gene. If your family has a history of drug or alcohol abuse, be extra vigilant.
• Talk about driving under the influence: Be sure to stress to your teens how much they put at risk by getting behind the wheel while using drugs or alcohol.
Find Help from the Caring Team at The Treatment Center
When parents see their child sinking deeper into addiction, they may not know how to help. In an effort to win back control, they impose restrictions or monitor their child more closely. Addiction, however, is not a problem that can be solved with a bit of tough love.
If your teen is struggling with addiction, seek help from a team of compassionate and caring professionals. The Treatment Center hosts a dedicated program designed to help teens with drug, behavioral and mental health issues. Our program includes family counseling, allowing the whole household to benefit from treatment.
Contact us today to learn more about therapy for families and teens or to discuss treatment for your own loved one.