The Impact of Teen Addiction on the Family: What are the First Steps to Getting Help?

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Few things are more devastating than discovering that your teen is suffering from alcohol or drug addiction.

The reaction of some parents is to punish or discipline their child, which can often make the situation worse. Other parents might linger in denial, which also does not help the addicted youngster or put him or her on a path to recovery.

The important thing to remember is—unfortunately—teen addiction is quite widespread. While this is not necessarily comforting, it is good to know your adolescent is not alone and getting help doesn’t carry the stigma or present the kind of challenges it once did. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the various options available, so you can pick the best solution for your family.

First, though, you should know the signs associated with addiction.

Warning Signs

While the signs of drinking are easier to discern—the smell of alcohol being the most common giveaway—the manifestation of drug addiction can be trickier to detect. Some clues include:

  • Physical indicators such as bloodshot eyes, constant nosebleeds (from nasally ingested substances), odd changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or a sudden lack of grooming and hygiene.
  • Behavioral clues, including a sudden drop in school or work attendance, a endless need for extra money, and secretive or suspicious behavior.
  • Psychological manifestations such as abrupt alterations in personality and attitudes, odd mood changes, sudden irritability and/or anger, seemingly endless agitation, lethargy, or curious fits of anxiety or paranoia.

Five Treatment Options to Consider

If you discover or suspect your teen has a drug or alcohol problem, there are a number of treatment options available.

  • Educational Groups
    Sometimes teens can be treated successfully simply by attending group therapy or education. When adolescents learn the many negative outcomes of addiction from other teenagers or a memorable speaker, it can foster a desire to get clean. Health issues, incarceration, and job loss are all good reason to stop using drugs or alcohol, and sometimes a reminder of these dangers from their peers or a new mentor can pave the way toward recovery. Personal stories are powerful tools, and the education and insight of these anecdotes can reach your teen in ways you simply cannot.
  • Individual Counseling
    Teens often use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate an unresolved psychological issue, school or job stress, or a preexisting, undiagnosed medical condition. Individual counseling can be a good step toward uncovering these problems and offering more healthy treatment options.
  • Family Counseling and Education
    If the teen’s family is sympathetic and willing to provide a clean, positive, and encouraging environment, an excellent alternative to conventional treatment is family counseling and education. Involving family and friends not only helps aid the youth through the recovery process, it has demonstrated a high success rate for relapse prevention and long-term recovery.
  • Twelve-Step Programs
    Twelve-step programs provide participants with the psychological tools necessary to achieve sobriety and assist others in recovery. Twelve-steppers meet in local groups, which range in size, and there are never any mandatory fees or dues. The only requirement is a desire to stop drinking or doing drugs. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) have proven to be very effective treatment options, but—especially with teenagers—should be attended under the supervision of a parent, guardian, mentor, or treatment provider. Interacting with other addicts can have a negative influence on some suggestible adolescents It is crucial to be vigilant for signs of relapse, especially if they become close friends with someone in the group other than their sponsor or counselor.
  • Recovery Planning for Relapse Prevention
    To ensure a recovered addict stays clean, aftercare planning is the key. Aftercare planning helps parents and friends understand how to proceed in the event of a relapse. Not having a plan in place is one of the biggest reasons why addicts fail to stay clean, so don’t omit this essential step in the process.

Dealing with an addicted teen can leave parents or guardians feeling helpless and alone. Knowing there is help available can make a tremendous difference not only in the life of your child, but also in your own mental health. You don’t have to do this alone.

If you or a loved one know a teenager who needs help with suspected substance abuse, each passing day can be a matter of life or death. Contact High Focus Centers today.