As a parent or guardian of a child, one of your top priorities is to keep your child healthy and safe. Whether you are raising a biological child or acting as a guardian for another family member, you have likely gone to great lengths to provide a nurturing environment where your child can grow and thrive. However, despite all your hard work, it can still be shocking when your child succumbs to problematic substance use.
To better understand what parents need to know about teen substance use, it is important to consider the unique challenges and risk factors associated with adolescent drug and alcohol abuse.
There is a difference between substance use and substance abuse.
Addiction is defined as being unable to stop using a substance even though it is causing problems. This can include feeling the need to use a substance every day, missing work or school due to drug use, or continuing to use despite legal or financial consequences.
Medical research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse confirms that addiction arises from the brain’s response to intoxicating drugs. Addiction is viewed as a chronic condition comparable to diabetes or hypertension.
Addiction ultimately occurs due to a complex interplay between genetic, environmental, and social factors. Some examples include:
Addiction is a disease that requires treatment, and recovery is possible. Parents need to be supportive, understand their teen’s condition, and know when to seek professional help.
Adolescents often begin using substances at a younger age than previous generations, putting them at greater risk for adverse effects on brain development and function. Moreover, many teens do not believe that substance abuse poses any real danger, making them more likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol without thinking about the potential consequences.
Parents need to understand what factors can put their children at risk for developing an addiction and what they can do to help prevent such issues from occurring. This includes knowing what substances are most commonly abused by teens today and what common risk factors often lead young people toward substance abuse.
There are many challenges associated with addiction, and one of the most difficult is that it can progress from early warning signs to full-blown substance abuse if left unchecked. However, knowing what to look for can make early intervention possible, dramatically improving the chances of successful treatment.
When a child or teenager begins exhibiting warning signs of substance abuse, it is crucial for parents and other family members to take note. Mood changes, academic problems, and changing social interactions are all indicators of something going on. Other warning signs include:
These warning signs indicate that parents should take immediate action to address the situation and get their children the help they need. Early detection is key to preventing long-term physical or mental damage from substance abuse.
As a parent, your natural response to discovering that your child has become addicted to drugs or alcohol is often shame, disappointment, and frustration. Of course, these emotions are expected; however, it's critical to temper these feelings when dealing directly with your teen. Throwing around accusations and blame will only push your teen further away. However, overreacting or lashing out can prevent teens from opening up about their experiences.
Getting teens to talk is essential in determining if their drug use was a one-time thing or if it’s becoming a problem. Parents should explain how they care about their child and their future. Teens who feel supported and loved are more likely to confide in their parents and seek help if they're struggling. It's also vital for parents to listen without judgment and refrain from lecturing. This way, teens will be more likely to open up and share what's going on.
Many teens who struggle with addiction also have a co-occurring mental health disorder, such as anxiety or depression. The most effective treatment integrates care for both issues. Clearfork Academy offers a continuum of support for your teen's substance use and mental health concerns. Our intensive outpatient and residential/inpatient treatment centers are staffed with licensed professionals trained to address co-occurring substance use and mental health treatment concurrently. It's essential to recognize that one disorder does not cause the other; they occur at the same time, and both require clinical intervention. As a parent, it's important to know the warning signs of substance abuse and to talk to your teen early and often. Help is available, and you are not alone. If you know a teen struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues, don't wait. Early intervention saves lives. Reach out to Clearfork Academy today at (817) 259-2597.
Originally from the Saginaw, Eagle Mountain area, Austin Davis earned a Bachelor of Science in Pastoral Ministry from Lee University in Cleveland, TN and a Master of Arts in Counseling from The Church of God Theological Seminary. He then went on to become a Licensed Professional Counselor-Supervisor in the State of Texas.
Austin’s professional history includes both local church ministry and clinical counseling. At a young age, he began serving youth at the local church in various capacities which led to clinical training and education. Austin gained a vast knowledge of mental health disorders while working in state and public mental health hospitals. This is where he was exposed to almost every type of diagnosis and carries this experience into the daily treatment.
Austin’s longtime passion is Clearfork Academy, a christ-centered residential facility focused on mental health and substance abuse. He finds joy and fulfillment working with “difficult” clients that challenge his heart and clinical skill set. It is his hope and desire that each resident that passes through Clearfork Academy will be one step closer to their created design.
Austin’s greatest pleasures in life are being a husband to his wife, and a father to his growing children. He serves at his local church by playing guitar, speaking and helping with tech arts. Austin also enjoys being physically active, reading, woodworking, and music.