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Teenagers and Substance Abuse: A Problem That Can't Be Ignored

Teenagers and Substance Abuse: A Problem That Can’t Be Ignored

As parents, we sometimes find it hard to face the fact that teen substance abuse is a burgeoning problem in our society. Here are a few statistics that bear this out:

  • Studies showed that in 2008, 16% of students in the eighth grade and 29% in the tenth grade had engaged in underage drinking.
  • Among high-school seniors in 2010, nearly 3% had used cocaine, 8% Vicodin, and 5% inhalants and Ecstasy.
  • Approximately 30% of tenth-grade students had used marijuana during 2010.

And the numbers have only increased since then.

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Symptoms and Effects—Teenagers and Substance Abuse

Detecting a teenager’s substance abuse is often difficult, but there are some telltale signs and symptoms:

  • Changes in behavioral patterns and/or exacerbation of existing predilections—for example, exhibiting verbal or physical abuse toward other people, making excuses and lying, breaking curfew, and/or secluding themselves in their room.
  • Traces of strange odors on clothing, body, and breath.
  • Possession of drug paraphernalia.

If your teenager shows any of these signs (even if they turn out to be false alarms), experts advise medical and psychiatric evaluation. The effects of substance on teens can be more damaging and longer lasting than in older substance abusers. The younger a person is when he or she starts using/abusing drugs, the greater the likelihood that the person will become addicted.

Stages and Treatment Options Regarding Teenagers and Substance Abuse

The first stage of drug use among teenagers involves their contemplating or only having dabbled in drug use. Prevention is key here. Parents can limit access to drugs and questionable friends, examine and address risk factors, and ensure optimal supervision. In the following stage when drug use is infrequent and not yet habitual, education and some counseling are advised to prevent occasional usage from escalating to something more serious.

For the later stages, when a teenager’s drug use is approaching or has become a full-blown addiction, several treatment options are available. As with all substance abuse treatment, the program must be customized to meet each individual’s specific and unique needs.

With teenagers, family interventions have proven to be effective. The components of these generally include multidimensional family therapy (also known as MDFT and often very effective), multifamily educational intervention (MFE), and group therapy. Additional treatment options include:

  • Residential treatment – Usually three to five months; involves discovering and addressing educational issues, damaging peer relationships, and underlying family problems.
  • Relapse prevention – Seeks to discover and correct problem behaviors while providing individualized counseling and community-based support.
  • Stimulus control – A treatment option that seeks to educate the patient on how to avoid situations where drugs may be introduced.

Teen substance abuse is a growing societal problem, but there is hope when abuse is addressed as early as possible. Contact us today for free information on how to help your teenager find hope and a brighter future with customized treatment.

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