Many teenagers use drugs and alcohol; some simply experiment, while others experience addiction at a young age. Deciphering between the two can be challenging. As a parent, it is crucial to know the signs and risk factors of your teenager becoming addicted to drugs or alcohol. Recognition and prevention of drug or alcohol use can end an emerging problem before it starts.

Experimenting With Drugs and Alcohol

According to a study conducted by researchers at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, half of all new drug and alcohol users are under the age of 18. However, experimentation plays the most significant role in teenage drug and alcohol use. As a parent, you may be worried about your teen experimenting with drugs and alcohol, but experimentation is a part of life and growing up. Just because your teen has experimented with drugs and alcohol does not mean they will become addicted. Common reasons teens experiment include:

  • Curiosity
  • Peer pressure
  • Stress
  • Emotional struggles

While experimentation may be normal, it is essential to watch out for signs of abuse and addiction.

Signs of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Teenagers

There are many signs that your teen may be abusing drugs. However, it can be challenging to tell the difference between drug or alcohol use and the signs of your teen just having a hard time with adolescence. Some common signs of teenage drug abuse include:

  • Bad grades
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Laughing for no reason
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Poor hygiene
  • Diminished personal appearance
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Secretive behavior
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Missing curfew

As a parent, the best way to understand what is going on with your teenager is to talk to them. It is up to parents to initiate a conversation with their children if they suspect drug use.

Risk Factors of Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Risk factors for teenage drug and alcohol abuse include:

  • Family history of substance abuse
  • Favorable parental attitudes towards the behavior
  • Poor parental monitoring
  • Parental substance use
  • Family rejection of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Association with substance-using peers
  • Lack of connection at school
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Mental health issues

Preventing Drug and Alcohol Abuse

As a parent, you significantly influence your child’s life. Even if it seems your teenager is pulling away and eager for independence, they most likely still want you involved in their life. A strong bond with your teenager can help reduce the chances of engaging in unhealthy behaviors, including drug and alcohol abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has researched factors that help prevent teenage substance use. These are known as protective factors. Some protective factors for substance use in teenagers include:

  • Parent or family engagement
  • Family support
  • Parental disapproval of substance use
  • Parental monitoring
  • Connection in school

Openly Talking to Your Teenager

When your teenager is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, it is imperative to talk and listen to them. Discuss the negative effects of drugs and alcohol. Clearly communicate that you do not want them using substances. Talk about the short- and long-term effects drugs and alcohol can have on their physical health, mental health, and safety.

Make sure you approach the topic of drug and alcohol abuse with openness. To help yourself be open, consider:

  • Keep an open mind. If you want to have a productive conversation with your teen, try to keep an open mind and remain curious and calm. This way, your child is more likely to be receptive to what you say,
  • Ask open-ended questions. For a more engaging conversation, you want to ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” answer.
  • Use active listening. Let your teen know they are understood by reflecting back on what you hear. Listen without interrupting and then sum up what you heard. For example, you can respond to what your child is saying by starting a sentence with “It seems like you’re feeling….”
  • Use “I” statements. “I” statements let you express yourself without your child feeling judged or blamed. You can describe their behavior, how you feel about it, how it affects you, and what you need. For example, you may say something like, “When you don’t come home on time, I worry that something terrible has happened. I need for you to call me when you know you’re going to be late so I know you’re okay.”
  • Offer empathy and support. Let your teen know you understand. The teenage years can be challenging and it is important to acknowledge that everybody struggles sometimes. However, drugs and alcohol are not healthy ways to cope with their problems. Let your teen know they can trust you and you are there for support and guidance.

Treatment for Teenage Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Having to decide to send your teenager to treatment for drug and alcohol abuse can be challenging. If your teen has already tried quitting or reducing use and failed, then it’s essential to receive treatment as soon as possible. The earlier an addiction is recognized, the easier it is to treat.

Many teenagers experiment with drugs and alcohol. However, spotting the signs of substance abuse is crucial to helping your child. Your child may show physical signs of substance use, such as bloodshot eyes, or behavioral signs, such as bad grades in school. Recognizing the difference between signs of substance abuse and teenage behavior can be challenging, so it is essential to speak to your child. Talk to them openly about consequences and listen to how they are feeling. If you believe your child is struggling with addiction, it may be time to send them to treatment. At Hired Power, we provide adolescent transports to ensure safe travel from the home to a rehab facility for your child. We offer services to those going to a wilderness program or ranch and have gender-specific staff members. We work closely with the family and professionals involved to create the safest possible arrangements and experience. To learn more about services, call us today at (800) 910-9299.

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