Teen Drug Addiction: What You Need to Know

Drug Addiction and Alcohol Abuse Information for Teens and Families

As a parent, guardian, or family member, the thought of your teen abusing alcohol and/or drugs may seem unimaginable, but it is a harsh reality for most young adults. Whether they are exposed to advertising and media, peer pressure or other influences, teens are faced with a decision whether or not they should use drugs and alcohol. The fact is that the majority of adolescents will drink alcohol before they turn 21. Similarly, research shows that teens are likely to experiment with drugs (prescription and illicit) at some point during their life. Although parents cannot completely protect and shelter their children from these substances, they can educate teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

It is important to encourage open, honest communication so that you know what challenges your teens are facing at school or in social situations. Set boundaries and rules. Give your children the opportunity to make their own choices and build trust. If your teen violates the guidelines you have put in place, ask them why he or she made the decision, and explain what other choices would have been appropriate. Use the situation as a learning experience. If your teen continuously breaks the rules or begins lying to you and your family to cover up his or her actions, there may be a larger problem. Substance abuse can present itself in numerous ways, so be diligent and discerning. Drug abuse and alcohol abuse can lead to health problems, bad decision-making, academic problems, mental health issues and others. Substance abuse can also lead to drug addiction and/or alcoholism, which can have serious short and long-term consequences.

This page is designed to help parents, guardians and family members learn about alcohol and drug abuse, understand the causes of substance abuse, know what warning signs to look for, and finally, how to handle a teen drug abuse.

What is drug abuse and how does it differ for adolescents?

Drug abuse is defined as the habitual, or reoccurring, use of illicit drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs. The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs occurs when individuals use the drugs in a manner or in quantities other than directed by a licensed medical professional, or for purposes that are not prescribed. Drug abuse is often classified as the use of a substance that deviates from culturally acceptable behaviors and the norms of a given environment. Actions that are acceptable in one social group may be perceived differently in another setting. Drug abuse exists on a spectrum, ranging from occasional drug and alcohol use to reoccurring, uncontrolled drug and alcohol use that may resemble addictive behavior.

It is important to note that drug abuse is not the same as drug addiction. The disease of addiction is defined by four main symptoms: craving, loss of control, physical dependence and tolerance. Addicts have a mental obsession with their drug (or drugs) of choice and a strong craving, or urge, to use. Once they start using, they cannot stop. An addict will continuously use the drug until it is gone. Once they no longer have the drug, obtaining the drug takes priority over any other responsibility or engagement. As an addict builds a tolerance for a drug, he or she needs to ingest greater amounts of the substance in order to feel the effects or “get high.” Full-blown drug addiction causes the individual to become obsessed with the drug – it’s all they think about. Consequently, family, friends, school, work, social events, personal care, finances and health become significantly less important. Addiction is a devastating cycle that only gets worse over time.

What causes teen alcohol abuse and drug abuse?

Although there is no clear-cut scientific findings that determine whether or not an adolescent will abuse drugs and alcohol, researchers have found a variety of elements that may promote alcohol and drug abuse among teens. There are many factors that contribute to substance abuse in teens and young adults:

Lack of Parent-Child Communication: How it Effects Addiction

First, parents must talk to their children and teens about the dangers associated with using drugs and alcohol. This is the single, most important step that parents can take in the prevention of substance abuse. Children and teens will have to make their own choices when it comes to using drugs and alcohol, but knowing the risks associated with these using mind-altering substances may deter them from making a poor decision. Secondly, it is important to encourage open and honest communication between parents and their children. If parents or guardians do not have a trusting relationship with their teens, it may cause them to hold their feelings inside and lie about their behaviors. Talk to your teen and set up fair, but strict rules that can help create a strong bond between parents and children. The more teens trust their parents, the more they will be willing to talk about the challenges they’re facing and admit when they’ve made a mistake. This is an invaluable advantage for parents when discussing drug and alcohol use with their teen.

Peer Pressure & Teen Drug Addiction

Although drugs and alcohol are prohibited on school grounds, teens are subject to peer pressure from their friends and acquaintances. This may happen at school or at social events at night or on the weekend. Fitting in is one of the great challenges of every individual in middle school and high school. Let’s face it – it feels good to be accepted. Children and teens may be willing to do anything to be part of the “cool” group at school. Unfortunately, this often means going to parties and using drugs and alcohol. Parents cannot control what happens, but they can make sure that their children are informed and aware of the consequences of using drugs and alcohol.

Teen Accessibility to Drugs & Alcohol

Do you drink and/or use drugs? Do you or a family member have an ongoing prescription to potentially addictive narcotics? Family exposure to drugs and/or alcohol can sometimes spark the interest of teens. They figure that since their families can use mind-altering substances, it is acceptable behavior. Make sure to communicate your household rules to your child(ren) and teen(s), so that they clearly know what is suitable and what is not. Lastly, make sure that all alcohol, drugs and prescription medication are locked away. Teens will be less likely to steal these substances from you and your family.

Lack of Supervision for Teens Struggling with Addiction

Teens with uninvolved parents or guardians are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol because they have more unsupervised free time, which makes it easier to conceal unfavorable behaviors. Parents who are more involved tend to know what’s going on in their teen’s life and can sense when their attitude or behavior has changed. Furthermore, parents or guardians who take the time to ask questions and get to know their child’s peers and close friends can more effectively judge their teen’s decision-making skills and corresponding actions. Parents and guardians should make sure to gather information about their teen’s whereabouts and ask for contact information when necessary. Also, parents should check-in with their kids while at home and make sure to get periodic updates when they are away. Simple steps can reduce the chances that your children and teens get involved with alcohol and drugs.

How do I know if my teen is abusing alcohol and/or drugs?

As a parent or guardian, it can be difficult to know if your teen is abusing alcohol and/or drugs, but there are some warning signs. To begin, look for changes in your child’s behaviors. Is your teen spending less time at home? Did his or her core group of friends changed recently? Has he or she started spending time with teens who have a bad reputation at school or among parents? Have your teen’s appetite or diet changed significantly? Has he or she lost weight? Is your child asking for more money than before? Has he or she lost interest in things that used to be exciting? These are just a few questions to consider when determining if your teen may be engaging in dangerous drug and alcohol-related activities. Next, adolescents will usually lie about their friends, activities, school performance and whereabouts to cover up drug and alcohol use.

Make sure to ask questions and verify that the information your teen is telling you is true. It is important to check in with your child to see how he or she is feeling. Are there problems at school? How are they getting along with their friends? Is he or she happy? The answers to these questions can provide valuable insight into the mental and emotional well-being of your teen. Lastly, look for alcohol or drug paraphernalia around the house and in your teen’s car – empty plastic baggies, alcohol bottles, pipes, rolling papers, pill bottles, and other indicators of alcohol and drug use. If you suspect that your teen may be abusing drugs and/or alcohol, utilize at home drug tests and breathalyzers to determine the truth. If your teen has a problem with drugs and alcohol, there are several options for substance abuse rehabilitation and recovery.

What are the signs of teen alcohol and/or drug abuse?

If your teen is abusing drugs and alcohol, there are some common warning signs:

  • Changes in day-to-day behaviors

  • Different friends or social groups

  • Hiding or lying about his or her behaviors

  • Isolation

  • Breaking rules at home or school

  • Bad temper and/or defiance

  • Decreased participation in activities

  • Poor performance at school

  • Deterioration in personal care and physical appearance

  • Financial problems

  • Stealing money and valuable items around the house

  • Changes in diet and appetite

  • Concern from teachers and friends

  • Alcohol and drug paraphernalia in the house, clothes or jacket pockets, or in a teen’s car

There may be other warning signs that can indicate your teen is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, so be on the lookout. Some symptoms may be obvious while others are hidden away. As a parent or guardian, you are the most familiar with your teens behaviors, daily schedule, demeanor, friends, school performance and overall health. If something doesn’t seem right, then ask your teen what’s going on. They may be honest with you, but they may be afraid to tell you if there’s a problem. Remember to be understanding and supportive while setting clear guidelines for acceptable attitudes and behaviors.

Where can I find drug abuse help for my child?

Thanks to the Internet, there are numerous resources for finding substance abuse help. Most reputable sites will provide users with general information, warning signs and various courses of action for different levels of drug abuse. It is extremely difficult to overcome drug and/or alcohol abuse without going through a structured youth substance abuse treatment program. Most programs will include a variety of rehab modalities such as individual counseling, group therapy, educational classes and relapse prevention.

GetRehab.Info was created to help men, women, adolescents and families find an effective and affordable alcohol and drug treatment facility within the United States. The founders of GetRehab.Info are passionate about helping those in need. The Admissions Specialists at GetRehab.Info are trusted, specially trained professionals who can answer your questions, determine insurance coverage, provide information, ease your worries, and discuss any concerns that you and your family may have.

If you or a loved one is in need of drug treatment or alcohol rehab programs, contact an Addiction Specialist at GetRehab.Info immediately.