Because teenagers are not yet fully developed their views can be very limited. Very often teenagers simply cannot fully comprehend the severity of the consequences of their using and of their own behavior due to using.
For this reason if your teenager has a substance abuse problem it really is best to ensure you find an addiction treatment center that offers specialized addiction treatment for young adults.
When choosing a rehab for your teenager it is also important to choose a medically supervised addiction treatment program that will help to ensure the best possible outcome for your child.
Here are the reasons why a medically supervised addiction treatment program is so important for young adults:
A Medically Supervised Detox
Just to put it simply, withdrawal from certain drugs can be dangerous, even deadly which means a medical detox can mean the difference between life and death for your teenager.
There are many drugs that require detoxification, including alcohol, heroin and opiate related drugs, and certain prescription drugs such as Xanas, Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Hydrocodone. Withdrawal symptoms can have severe side effects which can be fatal if not properly treated.
Detoxing from these drugs may cause vomiting, trembling, nausea, suicidal thoughts, hallucinations, seizures, and comas.
Trained medical professionals can help to manage these life threatening symptoms by administering medication to wean the addict off of the drug, decrease physical withdrawal symptoms and prevent seizures.
Medical staff are on hand to check vital signs, evaluate mental and physical progress and provide support to the patient throughout the withdrawal process.
There are also other drugs that do not usually require a medical detox, these include marijuana, cocaine, and crystal methamphetamine. Withdrawal symptoms are not so severe ranging from a feeling of tiredness to extreme irritability and agitation.
Very often medical detox is given for these drugs for other reasons such as the patient feels they cannot stop without medical intervention, they have become psychotic from drug use and need a medical intervention, they feel they are a danger to themselves (suicidal) or perhaps they just don’t have anywhere else to go.
It is much safer for an addict to go through a medical detox than to try and attempt it from home, not just from the viewpoint of the physical and mental dangers associated with detox, but also because relapse is a lot more likely when attempting to detox without medical help.
When a drug addict goes back to using drugs during or just after withdrawal their tolerance is usually much lower making an overdose more likely.
Addiction and Dual Diagnosis
When a patient is diagnosed with a substance abuse problem and a mental health issue it is referred to as a dual diagnosis.
Common mental health disorders that occur in conjunction with addiction and substance abuse problems are:
Mood Disorders (such as Bipolar Disorder)
It may be that a drug addict starts to develop mental health issues when, after chronic drug use, the brain function alters.
Alternatively someone with mental health issues may attempt to treat the symptoms of their mental disorder by taking drugs. For example someone suffering from anxiety may smoke marijuana in an attempt to calm themselves and through prolonged use becomes addicted.
Regardless of which disorder occurs first it is essential that the addiction and the mental health disorder be treated at the same time. The symptoms and effects of the mental disorder can trigger and drive the addiction and vice versa.
At least 30% of people that are suffering with a substance abuse problem have mental health issues.
For these reasons it really is important for teenagers (and any other addict) to be treated at a medically supervised, dual diagnosis addiction center.
Knowing that your teenage daughter or son is drinking alcohol can be quite heartbreaking for any parent. When such is the case, the first thing you need to do is allow this reality to sink in before taking any steps.
Once you have accepted this reality, the next thing to focus on is to understand your teen’s drinking problem to identify how you can help him/her out.
It is important that you do not accept a teen’s drinking behavior as normal. This is because the problem can escalate to addiction and make it hard for your teen son/daughter to quit alcohol.
Here are some steps to follow if you have found out your teenager is drinking alcohol:
1 Stay Calm and Assess the Situation
Although you may be absolutely livid it won’t be helpful if you come at your hormonal (and possibly hungover) teenager with guns blazing.
Yes your teenager has been drinking alcohol and it could be serious, but the facts are that teenagers are notorious for experimenting and getting into trouble. Its what they do at that age.
Stay calm and try to assess the situation objectively. What exactly happened, how severe was the incident and who was involved?
Talk to your spouse, or the other parent of your teenager if you are separated, about the incident and make sure you stand together. You don’t have to always agree with each other but you must present a united front.
2 Talk To Your Teenager About the Incident
Talking to your child is essential in this situation for a number of reasons.
The number one being that having a healthy, honest and open relationship with your child is your ultimate goal. If your child feels safe to talk to you and tell you exactly what is going on for him or her a lot of future problems can be avoided or dealt with easier.
Tell your child that you would like to know exactly what happened and you will promise not to judge or freak out.
Be prepared that your teenager may well be defensive and upset. So be prepared for it. Remember to come from a place of love, stay calm and be direct.
3 Explain the Dangers of Alcohol and Drugs to Your Teenager
Be ready to explain to your child why minors are not allowed to drink alcohol, point out things like loss of control and humiliation, getting into trouble with the law and the dangers of addiction. Discuss that dangers of peer influence and how that can lead him or her down a dangerous path.
If your family has a history of addiction chances are you child has a much higher chance of becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs than some other children. It is important that your teenager understands this.
4 Study Your Teenager and Trust Your Gut
During these discussions watch your teenagers body language and reactions to the discussion. Do you feel your teenager is being completely open and honest or is he avoiding eye contact?
Trust your gut instinct here to guide you on whether this was a one off experimental episode with alcohol or is there a deeper problem?
5 Hand Out An Appropriate Consequence
It is important to highlight to your teenager that every action has a consequence. You may want to ground your teenager for a period of time or perhaps you will have to curb your teenagers freedom in other ways such as an earlier curfew for a period of time, or even until further notice. You could also limit who your teenager is allowed to spend time with or the places he goes to.
You could also stop pocket money for a period of time. It is up to you to come up with something that you feel is appropriate.
Remember that the goal here is not to punish your teenager, it is to get your teenager to realize the seriousness of his actions so that he hopefully does not repeat them.
6 Set Boundaries for the Future
Let your teenager know that part of the consequences of his actions you need to relook at boundaries with your child and set new rules.
You may want to change the ways you manage your child’s freedom and privacy. You may feel it necessary to check your teenager’s phone, access his room and limit time online.
Let your child know what the new boundaries are and why they are being set.
Decide on what the consequences will be if there is a future incident with alcohol or drugs and let your child know what it is. Be fully prepared to carry it out.
7 Talk to Other Parents
Being friendly with the parents of your teenagers friends will mean that you can talk to them if any of those teenagers were also involved in the incident. Having all the parents on board and taking similar steps might mean all the difference.
8 Stick to the New Boundaries
It is vitally important to stick to the new boundaries that you have set for your teenager, as we all know they just love to push the boundaries. Having firm boundaries sets a safer space for your teenager.
If your teenager crosses a boundary or breaks a rule you must carry out consequences for that so your teenager knows that you mean business.
Hopefully things ends here, where you teenager pushes a bit, finds firm boundaries and decides not to test again.
9 Contact Professionals
If there are repeat episodes of your teenager drinking alcohol, taking drugs or breaking important boundaries that have been set it is a sign that there could be a much deeper problem. Or perhaps your gut instincts just tell you that something is wrong.
Contact a professional in your area (addiction counselor, therapist, family psychologist) to discuss the way forward.
10 Adolescent Treatment Program
A last and final step may be to look at sending your child to an adolescent unit or an addiction treatment facility.
I am quite open about my addiction, obviously since I blog about it! I am open in my community and regularly post in Facebook groups reaching out to other addicts to contact me for help to get clean.
The result is that I mostly get phone calls from the moms of addicts. I find this really sad, because it reminds of what I have put my family through. Drug addiction family effects can be devastating. The addict doesn’t just suck him or herself into dark places but the entire family too. Everything revolves around the addict and the chaos that the addict causes.
Drug Addiction Family Effects
There are so many ways that drug addiction and alcoholism effects the family, from financial damages to safety risks. The list here is so long and I couldn’t possibly cover all the effects on family.
Here are just a few examples:
Emotional pain, worry and upset. Think about it right, you’re a mom and your teenage daughter is out of control and on drugs… you don’t even know where she is and it’s 1am? I can’t even begin to think how this would affect me! And when she comes home and you ask her she gets aggressive and nasty with you?
Verbal and emotional abuse. Yes an addict will be abusive towards the family, at the every least by being emotionally and verbally aggressive.
Possible physical abuse and/ or sexual abuse.
Safety risks by bringing drug dealers or other addicts to your home.
Theft of money, household goods and anything else the addict can sell for drugs. The addict could steal from you, your work place, your friends or anywhere so you must be vigilant.
Loss of money when addict says they need it to get out of a fix and there will be plenty of these when the addict loses a job, gets evicted, crashes their car….
So here I am painting the addict as a terrible person, well they’re not really. Addiction can turn the most amazing person into scum.
Your lovely son/ daughter/ wife/ mom/ brother is still in there, I promise you. And knowing the right way to handle the situation could mean all the difference.
So what do I advise you to do? Here are some steps you can follow to help your love one. They may not result in your loved one getting clean but they will help you to cope with the problem better.
These are my personal suggestions for helping your loved one. I am not an addiction counselor or a professional in the addiction field.
My experience is personal experience being an addict. I used for 15 years and I am now 7 years clean. I spent nearly a year in a drug rehabilitation center and I regularly attend 12 Step Meetings.
I have done a 1 year counseling course and spent a year working with addicts and their families in a drug rehabilitation center.
Step 1: You didn’t Cause it. You can’t Control it. You can’t Cure it.
So the first step is getting help for yourself. The 3 C’s is a common thing that is taught in family programs. You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it and you can’t cure it.
You have probably been through a living hell. You need support and help for yourself first. Remember you can’t help anyone when you have nothing to give. If you have been battling this problem for a long time you have nothing left to give.
So I suggest you contact the family side of a 12 step program. So contact Al-anon (the family group for Alcoholics Anonymous), Nar-anon (the family group for Narcotics Anonymous or Coda (Codependency Anonymous is a 12 step group that focuses on support to form healthy relationships). These groups are made up of people that also have loved ones that are addicts, so you can talk to them and get support.
Alternatively, or even better, in addition to, contact a counselor that specializes in family counseling for addiction.
If you are religious and attend religious services please contact your religious leader and get support from them. Lots of churches have addiction support programs. Get as much support as possible. While I think this is a great addition to my previous suggestions, please don’t only use the church. The church does not specialize in addiction problems and I mean this is the best way possible when I say that addiction cannot be prayed away. The 12 Step program is based on a higher powers, so use the 12 Step Program with God as your higher power. Include God in your strategy but don’t make God your entire strategy.
The focus here is to get support for yourself, not for your loved one. You will need it for this journey.
This may seem like something you don’t want to do, it may seem pointless or stupid, but please trust me that this first step is the most important part of this whole process. You cannot help anyone else if you cannot help yourself.
Step 2: Learn About Addiction
Prepare yourself for battle, learn about what you are up against. Like they say in meetings, addiction is cunning, baffling and powerful. You have no idea what you are up against and you may be doing things that you think are helpful but in fact are just helping the addict to stay sick. You need to learn how to deal with your loved one, to deal with them with love but tough love.
You need to learn how to set your boundaries and stick to them.
You cannot change anyone else, but you can make changes to yourself, to the way that you do things. Through these changes that you make to yourself the addict may change.
This is a great book to read that will teach you a lot about addiction. it is also full of practical tips and examples. This will be a good place to start learning.
Step 3: Plan and Carry Out an Intervention
Please don’t do this step alone. Contact an addictions counselor and have them assist you with your planning of this step and carrying it out. You can even have the counselor with you at the intervention.
An intervention is where you and all significant others of the addict come together and have a show down with the addict. This must be done in a firm, yet loving way. It will be very hard to do and for this reason I suggest having a counselor present to help with everything.
An intervention serves these purposes:
To present a united front to the addict and let the addict know the extent of the damages caused by his or her behavior. Hopefully this will break through the denial of the addict.
To show a united front that cannot be manipulated out of. Addicts play people off on one another all the time and this is especially common with those closest to the addict.
To tell the addict what boundaries are being set.
To tell the addict what the consequences will be if he or she addict breaks any of these boundaries
To give an ultimatum to the addict to get clean and get his or her act together. This can include that the addict must go to rehab and/or 12 step meetings, whatever you have planned with the counselor.
To make sure the addict knows this is not an attack but an act of love.
Step 4: Sink or Swim!
This is the hard part but the addict must do this for himself or herself. You cannot do anything more for the addict. It will literally be sink or swim and you must not interfere with this process.
Remember that the addict needs to hit rock bottom before he or she will make any changes. By having an intervention this could actually help the addict hit rock bottom. When the addict knows that he or she won’t get any more money for drugs or be bailed out of trouble when he or she causes damages it may be the rock bottom needed.
An addict’s rock bottom is simply when the addict decides to stop digging. And when an addict thinks he has hit rock bottom he or she can always go down further. If the addict is not dead, the hole can be dug deeper can’t it?
Step 5: Stick to Your Boundaries and Carry Out Consequences
This is really important. You need to stick to your guns and be consistent.
Remember what I said about rock bottom? If you let the addict break the boundaries you set down in the intervention you are causing damage and letting the addict stay sick. There is no point in setting boundaries and then doing nothing when they are crossed.
How many times has the addict promised to get clean? How many times has the addict said sorry and promised not to steal money from you? How many times has the addict borrowed money and not paid it back?
So for example if you told your daughter that if she drives drunk or high with her child you will call the social services you need to do that. It will be hard but your daughter needs to face the consequences of her actions or she will never change.
If you continue letting the addict get away with this behavior nothing will change and you are actually preventing the addict from getting better.
If you have lost hope and think your loved one has no chance of getting clean, let me set you straight. I was a lost cause and I was the one all the counselors thought wouldn’t make it. There is always hope, just get started on the right path. Then let go and let God.