Teenagers are one of the world’s most at-risk groups when it comes to substance abuse. The majority of people who eventually find themselves in the clutches of substance addiction are likely to say that they first encountered the substance characterizing their addiction during their teenage years. Preventing teen substance abuse and drug addiction is vital.
Preventing Teen Substance Abuse
Teenage substance abuse is what eventually leads to dependent adults. If addiction can be brought under control while in the most vulnerable teenage years, then substance abuse is less likely to carry over as a constant problem.
If you are an adult right now, you might understand exactly how hard facing the temptation of substance abuse as a teenager can be. The most commonly used substances by adolescents are alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco, according to the CDC.
Here’s how to deal with teenage substance abuse.
Experimentation is Not Always Addiction
How do you make sure your teenager never tries an addictive substance as long as they live? You don’t.
At some point, situations arise where addictive substances are discussed or readily available. Some teenagers choose to experiment, but this doesn’t mean that a teenager is automatically addicted to the substance in question. It means that there’s a fork in the road. That is to say, they face a choice to continue or not.
Some people move on from these experimentation phases, while others do not. To clarify, experimentation doesn’t always mean automatic addiction, but it might mean that it’s time to talk.
An Open Discussion
One of the most important things to do when suspecting teen substance abuse is to open a line of communication. Talk about it. It doesn’t help to edge up to a big “confrontation” and it doesn’t help to be silent, either.
An open discussion is important. Just as important is creating an environment where teenagers feel they are able to be open about anything in the first place.
As a teenager yourself, why didn’t you speak to your own parents about what was going on in your life? Most people were embarrassed, self-conscious, or scared to do it. As a result, anyone today should remember that it’s likely for other teenagers in a different time to feel exactly the same.
Substance abuse and addiction are very rarely about the drug itself. That is to say, it is likely about masking physical or emotional issues through the conduit of the substance. Ask about the issue before interrogating them about the substances in question.
We know a lot more about substance abuse today. Furthermore, we know that genetics can play a part in how people react to addictive substances.
When facing teen substance abuse problems, sometimes genetic sequencing can go a long way towards establishing better treatment options. In addition, it can shed light on why some people might be more prone to some types of behavior. Drugs aren’t just about peer pressure or trying to fit into the crowd anymore; sometimes it’s helped along by genetic factors, or it might be used to mask other issues like physical pain.
Signs of Substance Abuse
One of the first signs of substance abuse can be a gut feeling for someone who knows the person exceptionally well. Changes in routine, sudden withdrawal from regular activities, and increased bouts of depression can all be signs that point to potential substance abuse. On the other hand, these same signs could also mean a million different things that aren’t substance abuse at all.
Most signs of substance abuse will be individual, and can’t be defined by a “list” as such.
Avoiding “Tough Love” at All Costs
Tough love used to be a popular concept, although today the majority of professionals are in agreement that the “tough love” approach can be more dangerous than anything else. When a position of “tough love” is forced on anyone, it can push them further away from getting the help they need (instead of towards it).
Curbing teenage substance abuse has more to do with addressing the issues behind the abuse – and less to do with tough love than we thought.
…Is It Something Else?
Substance addiction can sometimes be a manifestation of trying to self-medicate for emotional or physical pain. This means that addiction is not the only factor that should be treated – but anyone who wants to help has to find out what the underlying issue behind the abuse is before it can be addressed properly.
Again, the importance of an open discussion is clear. It also means that one of the most important questions is to find out why substance abuse happens in the first place. Address these reasons instead of just focusing on substance abuse.
People Don’t Take Drugs to “Be Cool”
It’s a common myth that people take drugs to “fit in” or “be cool.”
People take drugs in order to feel differently from how they do, either physically or emotionally. From there, it’s where substance abuse gets out of control; often, when an experimentation experience changes to a regular chase for a feeling that’s somehow superior to normal.
If you want someone to stop taking drugs, coping mechanisms, distractions, and dealing with the underlying issues is what will need to be done.
Finding Other Pastimes (and Often Different Friends)
People who bond over substance abuse become “drinking buddies” or “drugging friends”.
It’s not uncommon for people who pick a new life path to lose friends who shared their substance abuse or find the need to steer away from pastimes that put them face-to-face with their addiction.
Drugs Have Changed
Substances have changed to what they might have been 15 or 20 years ago. Now, many of the things that are considered “drugs” are available on the internet. Likewise, they have new, terrifying chemical compositions that scientists barely understand so far (let alone the teenagers who are ordering it).
It’s important to prepare teenagers for the possibility of encountering these things too. The drugs that aren’t just cocaine or heroin, but the ones that are changing every day. These should be seen with just as much danger – if not more because we’re not sure how they could pose a short or long-term danger.
SAGE Counseling Omaha
At SAGE Counseling Omaha, our primary focus is on helping you to get the support and treatment that you need as you move forward. We all experience challenges that are often too difficult to work through on their own, and we are here to support you during these tough times.
When you connect with our compassionate counseling team, you can rest assured that you will receive the individualized care that you need. Contact us today. For approved clients, we are able to utilize telehealth services through our HIPAA compliant virtual software.