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What to Do When You Find Out Your Teen Is Using Substances

It can be frightening when you find out your teen is using substances. It might bring up memories of your past substance use or memories of other teens you knew who used substances. You may feel angry at your teen for not living up to the values you expect of them. You might feel guilty about yourself as a parent when your teen uses substances. Your family members must work together to respond calmly and effectively to substance use.

Listen to Your Teen

During the conversation, apply active listening. While it might be your first impulse to go on the attack, that will not help anyone, and it won’t give you all the information you need. Instead, listen to try and understand what your teen is saying. Look at their body language, and listen to their tone of voice.

We suggest preparing a list of specific questions regarding their recent behaviors to offer the discussion some structure and direction. Try to stay calm and avoid becoming defensive if they deny using the substances. Many teens who abuse substances will lie about it for fear of getting in trouble with their parents or guardians. Yet, continue to ask questions for greater clarity of the situation.

Do Not Wait for a Formal Addiction Diagnosis

Parents often worry that they do not have enough evidence or knowledge to know if their teen’s behaviors are problematic. However, it is advisable to seek help immediately rather than risk waiting and ignoring the problem.

When you become aware of your teen’s substance use, do not wait for their use to escalate. When you wait, this can mean missed opportunities for seeking treatment. You can take action right away by having an open discussion with your teen about your concerns.

Seek Professional Help Immediately

The first step is to take action as soon as possible. While it may be tempting to handle the problem independently, it’s essential to find professional help, whether from a trained specialist in teen substance use disorder (SUD) or your family practitioner. Additional options for treatment include:

  • Find a local rehab center
  • Talk to your child’s primary care doctor or their therapist
  • Contact a 12-Step support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) for teens

Educate Yourself About the Substances Your Child Consumes

It is essential to educate yourself about the substances your child is using. You also want to understand what happens if your child mixes substances.

There are a lot of great resources on the web for finding out about specific drugs, such as NIDA for Teens or SAMHSA’s National Helpline. These websites can explain the long-term consequences of substance abuse and provide information about how long substances stay in the system.

Finally, you must understand when someone is addicted to a drug. Addiction usually means that an individual cannot stop taking a substance even when they desperately want to stop; this may be because their brain has changed to crave substances more than anything else. Someone addicted will feel intense withdrawal symptoms if they stop taking a drug; sweating, shaking, nausea and vomiting may occur within just hours or days of quitting.

The only way to treat addiction is with detoxification followed by professional therapy through an addiction treatment center.

Stop Enabling Their Substance Use

When your child is using drugs, it’s easy to fall into the trap of enabling their behavior. You may want to protect them from harm but are sending the message that it’s OK to use substances. It can be a very confusing time for you as a parent, and there are many ways that we can unknowingly help our kids continue their habits. Since you love your child so much and enjoy the best for them, here is a list of behaviors that show them it’s okay to continue using drugs:

  • Buying them a beer or other substances at parties even though they’re under 21
  • Giving them money when they ask
  • Letting them drive after drinking alcohol or smoking marijuana

Find Support for Yourself and Other Family Members

Finding support for yourself and your family is crucial because you are likely to have questions about how best to handle your teen’s substance use. You may also need advice from other parents or a professional therapist on how to get through this time in your life.

Support groups for parents of teens with substance abuse problems can be beneficial. In addition, individual counseling can help you or other members of the family deal with the stresses that arise with a teen with a SUD. You are not alone in this journey. Many families struggle when discovering their children’s drug use, and it’s okay if you need help dealing with the situation.

The teenage years can be demanding as you work to understand your child, their motivations, and behaviors. As you plan how to handle your teen’s drug and alcohol use and what path you think is best to get them the help they need, it’s essential to remain objective, informed, and ready to take action once you have all the facts. If you are concerned your teen is using drugs or alcohol, we urge you to seek help from an experienced and skilled treatment provider. An excellent place to start is Clearfork Academy. Our team of experienced and fully licensed clinicians knows how to identify drug addiction and help teens become substance-free. We offer evidence-based programs for the adolescent population that has been proven effective in healing those struggling with substance abuse issues. To find out more, reach out to us today by calling (817) 259-2597.

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