Learn How to Address the Issue
As difficult as it is to watch an adult drug abuser cope with addiction, it can be even more heartbreaking to see a young person struggle with drug dependency. It’s important for adults to realize that more than 48% of high school seniors reported that they had used illicit drugs at some point. For some juveniles, even a brief period of experimentation could lead to abuse and addiction.
Addressing a young person’s addiction can be a complicated process, especially because juveniles are more likely to pull away from authority figures, rebel and go through dramatic behavioral changes.
For parents, school officials, friends and loved ones, helping a young person overcome addiction can feel hopeless. However, there are several effective steps and strategies that can pave the way for adolescents to move past their drug use and return to a healthy, productive way of life.
Recognize the Signs of Addiction
It’s nearly impossible for parents and adult authority figures to address a drug addiction problem if they don’t know that one exists. While it may be hard to believe, juveniles can often hide their drug addictions more easily than people in other age groups.
In adolescent and teen years, individuals undergo various behavioral changes, including moodiness, a need for privacy, rebellious behavior and interests in new activities and relationships. Sometimes parents and other adults may miss out on signs of drug abuse because they think their teen is going through normal adolescent changes.
Some Signs Aren’t so Obvious
However, parents and adults should keep a close eye on adolescents and teens and watch for any of these changes that may be occurring at extreme levels. For example, an increased desire for privacy might be normal, but total isolation from the rest of the family could be a warning sign. Similarly, coming home slightly past curfew may be a typical teen behavior, but regularly staying out all night could be cause for concern.
In addition to these extremes, adults should also watch for the following behavior:
- Rapid weight loss
- Sudden lack of interest in favorite pastimes
- Uncharacteristic drop in grades
- Strange smells in clothing
- Poor hygiene
- Sudden habit of wearing long sleeves in warm weather
The various signs of drug abuse may depend on what type of substance a juvenile is using, so the more informed adults can become about drug abuse, the more prepared they’ll be to spot the warning signs.
Avoid Enabling Behavior
Enabling is a common behavior among the loved ones of substance abusers. This describes the process of making it easier for an individual to continue using drugs. While it may sound simple to avoid, enabling is actually a natural response for family members who are acting on their instincts to love and support a young person suffering from an addiction.
A person who enables a juvenile with a drug addiction might brush over the substance abuse and insist that the problem isn’t that bad. Loved ones may sometimes fall into the trap of offering approval when drug users claim that they’ll quit after they use one last time. In some cases, family members can even join in and start exhibiting similar drug abusing behaviors, which can elevate the problem to a much more severe level.
Avoid Making Excuses on Their Behalf
While these may seem like extremes, there are also less obvious forms of enabling. For example, if juveniles are having trouble in school because of drugs, their parents might make excuses instead of allowing their children to face the consequences. When teens shift the blame away from themselves and towards others – such a friend, a strict teacher or an unfair school administrator – loved ones should avoid joining in with the blame game and instead encourage teens to be accountable for their own actions.
Often family members who suspect a drug problem will continue to give teenagers money or means of transportation. These may appear to be kind gestures, but if teens are using these resources to obtain and take drugs, loved ones are actually doing more harm than good.
Friends and family members should be critical about their own behaviors and conversations and determine whether they’re enabling a drug abuser. These actions might seem like natural ways to support someone who needs help, but they could actually be prolonging the problem.
Seek Out Professional Help
When juveniles are struggling with a drug addiction, creating a path to recovery is more than family members and friends can handle on their own. Drug addiction is a serious problem, and the best way for teens to live drug free is by undergoing drug rehabilitation.
There are numerous rehabilitation centers that can help young people address their addictions head on and overcome them. However, it’s important to note that not all treatment options are the same. Various rehabilitation centers provide different environments, philosophies, lengths of treatment, post-rehab options, access to activities, counseling methods and other components.
It’s essential for family members of juveniles to choose a treatment option that is best suited to the drug abuser’s specific needs and preferences. Selecting the wrong rehabilitation center could result in ineffective treatment or even a relapse. While it’s important to get professional help as soon as possible, parents should be diligent about making thoughtful decisions in order to give teens the best chances at success.
Continue Support After Treatment
Once a juvenile completes drug abuse treatment, that individual’s loved ones may believe that life can go on as normal. However, addiction is a chronic disease that still affects former drug abusers long after they’ve left rehab. It’s essential for parents, school officials, friends and other loved ones to realize this and keep close tabs on young people who are coming out of rehab.
Loved ones should check for signs that drug abuse has returned and avoid exposing former abusers to triggering situations, like an unlocked prescription medicine cabinet. Parents should also set firm boundaries and expectations to prevent their children from falling into the same bad habits that may have contributed to drug abuse in the past.
A great way to help former users remain clean is by encouraging them to participate in drug-free activities. If teens were previously passionate about certain extra-curricular activities like athletics, performing arts or student government, school officials and parents should help them become involved in those pastimes again.
Loved ones can also give former drug abusers a better chance at success by encouraging them to attend group meetings and programs that are specifically geared toward people in recovery. Often, these meetings are also open to the loved ones of the former drug abusers, so families and friends can attend together as a way of showing even more support and encouragement.
Set the Path for a Drug-Free Life
When a young person is facing a drug addiction, it’s vital for parents and adult authority figures to take charge of the problem as soon as possible. Loved ones should keep in mind that supporting a juvenile drug abuser may be a lengthy process, but it can ultimately help a young person break free from addiction and enter adulthood as a healthy, drug-free individual.