A Guide for Parents on
Teens, Addiction & Mental Illness
Substance abuse and mental illness are becoming more and more of a common occurrence for American’s, especially teens in more recent years. Do you suspect your teen is abusing drugs? Do you worry your adolescent has an undiagnosed mental illness that is leading them to dangerous and risky behaviors? Learn more about the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, what to look for and how The Academy for Adolescent Wellness Teen Rehab in South Florida can help. Relax, you’ve landed in the right place.
of lifetime cases of mental illness begin at 14 years of age.
How Does Addiction Happen & Who It Effects
Suspecting that your teen or adolescent is using drugs or abusing alcohol is a terrifying worry to have. It’s very important to not rush to judgment. Many, if not most, teens experiment with some form of drug or alcohol use during these developmental years. However, if they do cross the line into the ‘abuse’ phase, they are at a much greater risk of developing worse problems with addiction as adults.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), this is due to the fact that the developing brain doesn’t react the same way to contact with a mind or mood-altering substances. Additionally, adolescent and teen drug use cause greater long-term brain damage than in an adult’s brain.
If you discover that your child or loved one is using or abusing drugs and/or alcohol, it’s important to confront them — but not from a place of anger. The bigger priority is educating them. They need to know the consequences of their actions (if they’re yet to face any), or what the consequences can potentially become if they continue on the path they’re on. They need to know:
- What they’re doing to their bodies
- What can happen if they continue this behavior
- Real statistics on addiction, such as:
- More than 200 people every single day die from a drug-related death.
- The human body can become physically addicted to opiates in as little as three days.
- You can die from alcohol withdrawals.
- Who actually suffers from the disease of addiction
- Answer: Anyone. Addiction does not discriminate. Teenagers can be drug addicts. Doctors can be alcoholics. Teachers can be addicted to painkillers. Anyone who suffers an injury faces the risk of ending up on heroin. Celebrities like Demi Lovato, Macklemore, and Eminem who have all the funds and resources they could need aren’t immune to the labels of “alcoholic” and “drug addict” despite the superficial image of happiness.
Of course, it’s better to have this talk with them before it becomes a full-blown problem or addiction. Open communication from an early age is very helpful in preventing these type of mental disorders and substance abuse problems.
Unsure Whether Your Teen Needs Help? Request a Callback. We Can Help.
Why Do Teens Turn to Drugs?
Adolescent mental health and substance use awareness is at an all-time high, and for good reason. Statistics are pointing to an alarming increase among today’s youth.
Adolescence is a critical period for mental, social, and emotional well-being and development. During adolescence, the brain undergoes significant developmental changes, establishing neural pathways and behavior patterns that will last into adulthood, as mentioned before. This is why it is imperative that we recognize behavior patterns and red flags as early as possible — and nip a potentially serious problem in the bud before it even begins. We need to figure out why teens turn to drugs, so we can either,
- A. Prevent drug or alcohol abuse or other co-occurring disorders. Or,
- B. Get the root cause of an existing drug use or addiction problem and get your teen the help that they need
Teens and young people can turn to drugs for many different reasons. Remember, the majority (just above 75 percent) of underage drinking or recreational drug use in individuals of this age range are simply experimenting. This may be why nearly 50 percent of all people who try drugs for the first time are under the age of 18.
However, experimenting doesn’t always lead to normal, social behavior. Kids will experiment for different reasons, like:
- Curious about what alcohol feels like
- They see their friends using drugs and want to “fit in”
- Looking for something that allows them to escape reality
- Stress and anxiety
- Trying to fill a void that is unknown
Out of the remaining 20-something percent of kids, 6.6 percent of them self-report to drinking completely on their own, and these figures don’t take into account the amount of teenage drug users that will develop a problem with addiction once they reach adulthood. The earlier these behaviors can be treated and managed, the chances of your teen or child becoming happy, responsible, and successful in adulthood goes up tremendously.
Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late, Take Action Now.
How to Tell If Your Teen is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol
Instinct and gut reactions are often the first indicators that there is a problem with your loved one. Don’t forget, it’s never a good idea to interrogate them in an aggressive manner. They might not just be a normal, rebellious teenager — they may have a serious medical or mental health problem that needs to be taken seriously.
Some of the signs and symptoms to look for when identifying substance abuse are:
- Loss of interest in usual hobbies and activities (video games, skateboarding, blogging, art, etc.)
- Hanging out with different friends or purposely avoiding old friends
- Isolating and spending a lot of time alone
- Missing curfew or an abnormal lack of regard for the house rules
- Bad and/or worsening grades as well as poor attendance in school
- Squinty eyes dilated pupils or pinpointed pupils, red eyes
- An obvious overwhelming smell of perfume, cologne, mouthwash, etc. masking another smell underneath
- Finding drug paraphernalia in their room or car
- Disinterest in taking care of their appearance or hygiene
- General irritation or major mood swings that are an abnormal behavior
Many of the psychological signs and symptoms of addiction are similar to other mental health disorders, like clinical depression, an eating disorder, self-harm or self-mutilation, or generalized anxiety disorder, to name a few. If you are having suspicions, it’s best to just not beat around the bush, and just sit down and have a real conversation.
Does My Teen Need Rehab?
That can be a scary headline to read, especially if you’re worried that you may have a serious problem on your hands. The more open, receptive, and nonchalant your tone is while discussing this sensitive issue, the easier it will be to handle the situation.
“Hey, don’t be mad, I’m just being a (insert mom, dad, sister, friend, etc.), but have you been using drugs or drinking? I won’t be mad. I’m just concerned.” can be a great conversation starter. Put it in your own words so it feels natural. Coming at them instantly with a drug test and accusations may do more harm than good if they’re receptive to getting help.
If they come clean, this is actually good news. Reaffirm them that you want to help and will support them through getting well. However, be firm with your boundaries and conditions. Teens will be receptive to encouraging, positive language, and will benefit from your lack of enabling them any further.
If they deny it but you still suspect that they are drinking or using drugs, you can always purchase an at-home drug test from your local pharmacy. There is the possibility that this won’t go well. You may need to have them evaluated by an addiction treatment professional, which we can do with you over-the-phone here at The Academy for Adolescent Wellness, to see if they meet the criteria for rehab or not if you live in the areas of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Weston, Cooper City, Aventura, Plantation, or surrounding areas.
Still Unsure Whether Your Teen Needs Help?
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“Sometimes what initially seems like a detour from one’s path is the actual journey itself. That pain carves out a place within us and creates a place for greater joy and understanding of others and ourselves. So if you find yourself feeling like you’re off the track, consider this: You might be right where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to be at this moment in time. If we fail to embrace, no matter how painful or scary, the journey of parenting a struggling child, we will also miss the treasure that journey has to offer.” -The Journey of the Heroic Parent
If treatment or rehab is recommended, then we will discuss treatment options and walk you through the process of getting from where you and your family are to where you and your family want to be. With adolescents, we have no time to waste. The sooner we act, the more hope we have for their success and happiness.
Call us anytime at 1-866-692-0909. The light at the end of the tunnel is in reach — let’s get there before it’s too late.