Addiction is frightening. It fosters isolation and lying. It breaks the connection and trust in families. Long-term addiction usually starts as an adolescent. Common addictions that teens deal with are drugs and alcohol, pornography (click here to read more), and gaming/online addiction.
What Is It?
Addiction is the consistent, excessive use of something. With drugs and alcohol it is common to see symptoms of withdrawals and/or increased tolerance to its effects. There are other kinds of addiction too, such as addiction to a video game, pornography, social media, etc. Depressions often plays a part in addiction, which is one of the reasons why therapy helps treat addiction.
What are some signs of drug use?
There is frequently a change in honesty, mood, interest in activities, friends, weight, sleeping habits, appetite and attitude.
As a parent you might notice your teen isolating, having difficulty following rules, lying and being secretive, doing poorly in school and sometimes having the appearance of depression. You might find yourself in a lot more arguments with your teen, especially about curfew and meeting obligations.
You might feel decreased closeness with your teen. You also might feel confused, sad, angry and helpless. Oftentimes parenting methods that have always been effective suddenly seem useless. Your teen might be treating you dismissively. Suspecting your teen is using drugs or alcohol is incredibly overwhelming and scary.
Contrary to popular belief, marijuana is addictive.
Teens who try alcohol before age 13 have a higher incidence of future alcoholism. The risk is even greater for teens who binge drink at the occasional weekend party.
Roughly 1 in 10 high school students have abused prescription drugs…often taken from medicine cabinets at home.
How Is It Treated?
Medical Detoxification (“Detox”): This is the first step for a teen with a serious addiction to certain drugs or alcohol. For some drugs the detox process is very dangerous and needs to be done under a doctor’s supervision. This is not always the case. Call your family physician to find out if medical detox is needed. Detox is only meant to safely remove the drugs from your teen’s body. This does NOT cure the addiction.
Inpatient Rehabilitation (“Rehab” or “Residential Treatment”): For teens who have been using a lot of drugs or alcohol, this is a good option. Teens typically stay in the facility for 1-3 months. There they are provided drug counseling, therapy groups and sometimes school. When your teen leaves, continued therapy is essential. Your teen will be returning to the same place where they had friends who used with them. Therapy helps the teen stay on their sobriety plan, and reduces the chance of relapse back into drug or alcohol use.
Intensive Outpatient Rehabilitation (“IOP”): IOP is outpatient treatment. Your teen goes to several treatment groups per week. There they will discuss drug use and its triggers. It is often advisable to have your teenager in their own counseling at the same time. The people running IOP clinics are usually drug and alcohol counselors, which means they are not qualified to treat any coexisting depression, etc.
Therapy: Therapy is typically once per week. This helps your teenager deal with what caused them to develop an addiction, such as low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, etc. Therapy helps the teen make changes in their life so they stay away from the addiction. It often includes family sessions because your teenager’s addiction is extremely difficult for the entire family. Understanding the background of the drug or alcohol use or other addictions, and restoring family relationships are essential pieces of recovery.
12-Step Groups: These are free support groups held in the community. They are run by people with a relevant former addiction. For example, 12-step alcohol recovery groups are run by former alcoholics. There are groups just for teens. This is a positive adjunctive support for recovery.