Can I Help My Child with Substance Abuse?
Absolutely. In fact, we believe you have more of an impact on your child than you realize.
Study after study shows that parents are instrumental in helping their children stop using substances or heal addictions. Emily Feinstein is the director of health law and policy at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, and she says, “All the time, high school students tell us that the main reason their peers don’t drink or use drugs is because parents would disapprove.”
Further, Drug Free Kids Canada, a non-profit organization created by a parent community to help prevent adolescent drug abuse, confirms this by saying “Studies show that a parent may be able to reduce their child’s risk of drug use by up to 50%, just by talking to them.”
Your involvement in their lives truly helps them, might even save them.
Why Do Teens Use Drugs and/or Alcohol?
The teen years are often spent exploring the world before adulthood. Boundaries, for example, are constantly pushed because adolescents want to try new and sometimes risky behaviors. This desire is completely normal. However, it can sometimes lead to activities and choices that aren’t ideal, like using drugs or alcohol.
Teens may use drugs or alcohol because they want to:
– Be entertained
– Feel better, whether emotionally or physically
– Take a break from reality
– Explore new experiences
– Mimic adult behaviors
– Replicate independence
– Fit in with a peer group
What are Early Substance Abuse Warning Signs in Teens?
If you suspect your child might be trying or using nicotine, alcohol, or other drugs, having an open discussion with your child will help him/her open up. Being compassionate, curious, non-judgemental, encourages your child to trust you, to share, and accept help. And if you think their use has progressed to be a concern, knowing the warning signs will help you intervene quickly.
Here is a Watch List for Parents from the Drug Free Kids Canada:
– Changes in friends
– Negative changes in schoolwork, missing school, or declining grades
– Increased secrecy about possessions or activities
– Use of incense, room deodorant, or perfume to hide smoke or chemical odors
– Subtle changes in conversations with friends, using more secretive or “coded” language
– Change in clothing choices
– An increase in borrowing money
– Evidence of drug paraphernalia such as pipes or rolling papers
– Evidence of use of inhalant products (like hairspray)
– Bottles of eyedrops to hide bloodshot eyes or dilated pupils
– New usage of mouthwash or breath mints
– Missing prescription drugs, especially painkillers, narcotics, and mood stabilizers
Recognizing these signs is the first step toward helping your teen,
How Can I Help My Child with Substance Abuse?
We say this often, but it’s worth repeating:
You are already helping, as educating yourself and seeking guidance on how to help your child can truly make an impact. Plus, addiction and substance abuse is treatable. Ideally, we, as parents, can learn the signs to recognize early on, when our child might be experimenting with and testing boundaries. These are opportune times to show we care; by talking about the risks of alcohol and drug use, by modeling healthy choices, by doing alternative activities as a family that releases stress and build esteem.
And, you can connect your child with a therapist who specializes in working with young people on substance abuse and addiction. There are wonderful programs that pair recovery with earning school credits. It all starts with understanding where your child is at, showing you care, finding help. And if your teen won’t come with you, seeing a professional can help equip you to bring help home.
To find out more about what to do if your teen or young adult has a substance abuse problem, check out the amazing resource from the National Institute on Drug Abuse here.