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Teen sobriety requires a change in friends

Making new, sober friends helps a teen stop using drugs.  Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Making new, sober friends helps a teen stop using drugs.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

While this is not California, the statistics from this article are still very interesting to think about.  http://eastwindsor.patch.com/articles/christie-courts-mandatory-treatment-for-drug-offenders-26a17aed

 

In the state of New Jersey it has been found that mandating arrested drug offenders to treatment programs instead of jail-time has greatly reduced the repeat offense rate.  When a drug-offender simply does jail time the rearrest rate is 54% with a 43% re-conviction rate.  When mandated to treatment, the rearrest rate is 16% with an 8% re-conviction rate.

 

One thing that is rumored to happen in jail or prison is that an addict learns even more about how to be an addict.  There are a lot of drug users and dealers in prison/jail, and they educate one another in further delinquent behavior.  It is also rumored that there is a pretty significant amount of illegal drugs dealt within the prison system, sometimes making an addiction worse.

 

Whether you believe our justice system should or should not offer treatment centers as an alternative to jail/prison time, this article is a good example that treatment for addiction can be very helpful.  It also demonstrates that who you spend your time around is who you become.

 

While there’s a good chance your teenager isn’t serving jail time for a drug-related arrest, this article still applies to you.  The two important things to get from this is that 1) prisoners who spend time in the main prison population often commit drug-related crimes again and 2) prisoners who spend time around recovering addicts tend to get better.

 

If your child is acting out and participating in drug use, the most important thing you can do is change their peer group.  This is extremely challenging as a parent.  How many times have you told Junior, “I don’t like you being around those kids.  What about hanging out with so and so instead?”  Then you’re rewarded with a dirty look and an accusation that you “hate all my friends.”  This is when you need to start thinking outside the box.

 

If your kid isn’t working, help them find a job.  Teens who work develop friendships with their co-workers.  A job also takes up time that could otherwise be used to smoke a joint.

 

Your child might be farther into their drug use than just getting a job to change their peer group.  In that case, you’ll have to be more forceful and drastic.  Sending your teen to a relative’s house for about 3 months can be extremely helpful.  Do you notice that while your teen talks back towards you, they don’t talk back to your sister?  They aren’t familiar enough with your sister to do that.  It might just work to have them stay with her for a little while.  This is only effective if your relative lives far enough away that your teen cannot see the same friends.

 

If the case is more severe, you’ll have to strongly consider either rehab or teen boot camp.  Both of these methods are effective and helpful.  I’ve found that teens who go to boot camp tend to come back a little bit stronger than rehab.  However, in no way am I claiming to have completed a study on the matter.  Each rehab and each boot camp are different.  What works well with one type of teen may not be the ideal fit for another type of teen.

 

The bottom line is, teenagers begin to act like the people they are around.  Getting your struggling teen around successful teens tends to improve the decisions your teenager makes.  Just like the prisoners in this article, everyone needs someone who will show them an alternative, positive way out.  For teens the most important thing is that they think it is their idea.  This is your chance to be a creative parent and covertly help your teenager come up with a good idea for how they can start making changes.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Entertainment Streaming Addiction

Entertainment streaming addiction is so prevalent among teens (and people across the United States for that matter) that it’s almost hard to recognize.  Most people are watching hours of Youtube videos, Netflix, or Hulu each day. Because a great number of people are doing it, it starts to seem acceptable.  However, I challenge you to think about how any “addiction” is defined.  This will help you decide if your adolescent might have streaming addiction.

Addiction means needing more and more of something to feel satisfied, while feeling some form of withdrawal when it is taken away.  Has your teenager spent increasing amounts of time watching videos of some sort?  If you took all devices from them so they could not stream anything, would they be irritable?  Would it go beyond irritability?  Would they become despondent?

Many people thinl addiction is only possible if drugs or alcohol are involved.  They assume you need to go through physical withdrawals for something to qualify as “addiction.”  While the withdrawals from substances add danger to the withdrawal process, my experience tells me people get addicted to all kinds of things ranging from gambling to pornography to entertainment streaming.

The other element of addiction is whether it is leading to atrophy in other areas of life.  Is your teenager spending an inordinate amount of time sitting or lying down in order to watch a screen?  Is your teen struggling to get enough sleep because of hours lost to binge watching?  Has your teenager socialized less and less frequently with friends, preferring the company of a series they are watching?  Is your teenager’s favorite activity with you to watch a certain TV series together?  If you answered yes to these questions, then their life is out of balance because of entertainment streaming overload.

I encourage you to begin limiting your adolescent’s time in front of a screen.  According to Common Sense Media, teenagers are in front of a screen an average of nine hours per day.  Think about that!  Nine hours per day!  I PROMISE you they don’t have nine hours of homework per day, which means a lot of that screen time is unproductive.  Try putting a monitor on their devices just to make them aware of it at first.  Most people don’t want to be someone who does nothing but watch shows, they just don’t realize how much they’re doing it.  If they are made aware of how much screen time they accumulate each day, that might be enough for them to pare back.

If this doesn’t impact their screen use, then you will have to consider cutting the cord.  A lot of parents are hesitant to end a Netflix subscription because they also enjoy streaming.  But, being a parent has always meant doing things you don’t feel like doing.  When your kids were little you probably didn’t want to watch The Little Mermaid for the 100th time, yet you did it because it made them smile.  You may not want to give up Netflix in the house, but you can do it because it’s best for your kids’ growth and development.

Once your teenager is through the initial withdrawal period they will suddenly reappear around the house.  You will see your teen in the family room more often.  They will reengage with other activities.  It’s hard to imagine anything past their initial anger at first.  After a week or two though they usually start to enjoy things again.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

How a Therapist Deals with Online Gaming Addiction

Most everyone has tried video games. For some it has become an addiction that prevents them from living their life in a truly productive manner. If you teenager cannot live without online games, please watch this short video. Here Cameron talks about how he approaches online gaming addiction with adolescents.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

Social Media Addiction In Teens

Social media is part of our teens’ everyday lives. Using it to connect with friends and see what other people are doing can be fun. There is a point where use and compulsion to check a social media feed become detrimental. For some teens this can even grow into an all-out addiction.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT

Thoughts on Social Media Addiction

In 2017 20/20 did a piece about a young California girl who became obsessively addicted to her social media accounts.  At 12 years old this girl got her first smart phone.  Within a year she had multiple hidden accounts, was often up until 4:00am keeping up with postings on her feed, and texting for hours on end.  In the end this girl had to go to residential treatment because no amount of phone restriction would keep her from finding a way to access these accounts.

Whether it’s Snapchat, Instagram, or some other new app, if your teen feels a compulsion to use it, it’s bordering on addiction.  If the compulsion is so strong that they use it despite negative consequences, it is an addiction.

Can your teenager get through a meal without checking their phone?  Does your teen insist on keeping the phone in their room at night?  Does your teenager hardly ever seem to see friends in person, but is always “talking” to someone using a device?  Have your teen’s grades started to slip because of the phone?  Does your teenager struggle to get to bed at a decent hour?  If you answered yes to all these questions, there might be a social media addiction issue.

Studies have begun to emerge detailing a surprising result; people who use excessive social media are actually lonelier.  A study out of the University of Pennsylvania headed by Melissa G. Hunt, Ph.D., had college students in one group limit their time on social media apps to 10 minutes per day per app, and another group continue normal use.  Assessments of depression, anxiety and loneliness done before and after revealed a significant improvement in the group that limited their social media exposure, but no change in the group that used it normally.  There are probably several reasons the group who used less social media ended up feeling better, one of which is getting out of the comparison trap.

If your adolescent is addicted to social media, there is a good chance she (or he) is comparing to others constantly.  There is a comparison of how good your teen’s pictures look compared with friends, how many followers your teen has, and how many likes your teen is getting.  Your teen is constantly exposed to what other kids are doing without her.  Your teenager can end up obsessively checking for responses to her posts in order to feel validated.  It becomes an obsessive-compulsive need for instant gratification and validation.

Social media addiction causes relational challenges, declining grades, and a loss of interest in the real world.  It also can cause physical problems.  Your teen is focusing his eyes on a screen most of the day instead of looking up and out.  Your teenager is also no longer exercising or engaging muscles the way they are meant to be used at a young age.  Your teen is constantly cheating on the amount of sleep needed for healthy development and immunity.  Your teenager is not developing necessary skills to succeed in the world from basic things like doing laundry, to more complex things like dating face to face.

If you feel like your family’s life is run by your teenager’s phone, it’s time to consider whether your teen has a social media addiction.  It’s time to get life back on track.  Your teenager needs help.  Your teenager will honestly feel better after the initial couple weeks of agitated withdrawal from the social media platforms.  Life is meant to be lived through more than just a tiny screen.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Cameron Munholland, MMFT, Associate MFT