One of the biggest concerns many teens and parents find themselves facing is alcohol and drug use. An estimated 1.3 million adolescents in the United States have a substance use disorder. Equally as worrisome, the majority of people who have a teen substance abuse disorder started doing drugs before the age of 18 and people who start drinking before 15 are four times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder.
Gateway Carbondale’s Clinical Supervisor Rachel Ott and counselors Christina Gordon and Sarah Toigo answered some of the pressing questions people had for them regarding teen substance abuse. Their site, Gateway Carbondale, features an adolescent program specific to young girls to address the physical, emotional and environmental factors of addiction.
Some parents think exposing their kids to alcohol early will make them dislike it. Is this true or is it wishful thinking that could cause more harm than good?
“Due to a child’s biological, social, economic and/or environmental factors, exposure to alcohol and drugs can cause the onset or initiation of an addiction. So parents exposing their kids to alcohol and drugs can be a gateway to their abuse. It would most likely cause more harm than good.”
Since most teens will try or partake in illicit drug use, how will a parent know when to get them help for teen substance abuse?
“It is important to keep lines of communication open so that your teen feels comfortable coming to you if they are having problems. Talk to your teen about the pros and cons of using drugs and alcohol. If you are noticing a change in behavior or personality (e.g., declining grades, withdrawing from friends, family and extracurricular activities) it is likely time to seek help.”
What advice do you have for parents that are struggling with a teen addicted to drugs presently?
“Talk to your teen – remain calm but express your concerns. Be supportive. Understand that they are probably feeling guilty and won’t want to talk about the past, but explain that it is important for both of you to process your feelings about what has happened so that you can move forward. Listen to your teen, be there if they need to talk, make sure they feel heard and loved. Recovery is a process for the whole family. Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step programs can be helpful places for families seeking support.”
How can a parent monitor the recovery of their child without making it seem like they do not trust their child?
“One thing we do discuss with our clients is the topic of trust. Most of the teens we help talk about losing trust and what it will take to regain it and rebuild family relationships. We try to help them understand that there will be a level of mistrust when they return home, especially if there has been a lot of dishonesty and harmful behavior while the teen was using. The most important thing we stress is open communication. Check in with your teen regularly, organize family activities to help keep them busy and spend time with them and stick to the rules and boundaries you set up with your teen.”
A lot of teens abuse legal drugs right in their home. How can parents or guardians keep teens safe from their everyday medications?
“This issue comes up often during our family education groups and family therapy sessions. Parents need to stay up to date on the over-the-counter and prescription medications that are often abused. Avoid purchasing those products, and if that is not possible, some parents have chosen to lock up these medications.”
Don’t see your question here? See all questions and responses here or contact us. Gateway offers treatment programs for adolescents and provides both the patient and their loved ones the resources to understand addiction and begin the road to recovery. With individualized plans for Residential Treatment, Outpatient programs and aftercare, we’ll help you find a program that’s right for you.
If you or your teen is struggling with teen substance abuse, give Gateway a call at 877.505.4673.