Teen Addiction Treatment: First Steps for Parents
“Sweetheart, I think you are an addict.”
Those may be the hardest words that a parent must say to his or her child. Certainly, it is difficult for the son or daughter to hear. However, because it clearly identifies the problem, saying out loud that your teen is addicted to drugs or alcohol is a vital first step in getting him or her the necessary help to break the addiction.
So what comes next?
- Address the problem immediately. Do not put off treatment until the end of the semester or wait for a few weeks hoping that the problem will go away. Delaying corrective action will likely make the problem worse.
- Be extremely persuasive. Point out the legal ramifications of drug possession and consumption. Detail the school-related punishments that could impact the teen’s life. Outline the loss of privileges and other negative consequences that will result if the teen refuses to enter treatment. (Do not stage an intervention. Those have not been shown to work with teens, and they may do more harm than good.)
- Get your teen properly assessed. A doctor or other medical professional can ask your teen numerous questions to determine problematic behaviors, conduct blood or urine tests to detect signs of drug or alcohol use, and screen him or her for HIV. It is also important to identify other health conditions (chronic physical pain, ADHD, mental health issues, etc.) which may be related to the teen’s substance abuse.
- Construct a treatment regimen that accounts for all of your teen’s needs. Successful treatment plans do not focus solely on the addiction itself. Rather, they address contributing factors (from bullying and parental divorce to sexual abuse or suicidal thoughts) as well as the teen’s practical needs (transportation, legal services, and education).
- Resist the stigma of psychological therapy. A trained clinician can help teens develop behaviors to aid in their recovery, improve essential life skills, and boost their motivation to change. Also, peer support groups can show your teen that he or she is not the only person who is battling addiction.
- Monitor your teen’s treatment closely. Verify that your child is attending the required therapy sessions and/or taking any prescribed medications as directed. Resist the urge to halt a treatment regimen early, even if your teen is showing progress.
- Monitor your teen once treatment is over. Unfortunately, relapses are not uncommon among teens, so do not assume that your child is “cured” once the treatment regimen has been completed. Multiple rounds of treatment may be necessary. It is important to be just as vigilant regarding signs of drug abuse as you were when the addiction was first discovered. This does not mean that you should smother your child and hover excessively. Rather, it means that you should pay attention to potential signs of relapse.
- Provide continuous, unwavering support. Above all, your teen needs to know that he or she can count on you. This is especially true during difficult periods when the teen may be rebelling, relapsing, or refusing treatment. Attending separate family counseling sessions with your teen can often help strengthen these relationships.
Do not ignore the warning signs of addiction and assume that the child is “going through a phase” or “just being a typical teenager.” If left untreated, substance abuse can have devastating consequences on your teen’s physical and emotional health and can fracture family relationships as well. If a teen in your household is struggling with addiction, contact Next Generation Village for advice about treatment options today.