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Teen drug abuse? Help for parents

Teen drug abuse? Help for parents

What Can Parents Do If Their Teen Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol?

Most first time drug users are teenagers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Out of the 2.8 million new illicit drug users in 2013, 54 percent were under 18. Given that addiction typically starts at a young age, parents should be vigilant around their teenage children.

Parents usually perceive changes in their teenager’s behavior as puberty and may fail to notice signs of a potential substance use disorder. These signs include:

  • Withdrawal from social settings
  • Increased fatigue, depression or hostility
  • Changes in peer group
  • Lack of care in appearance
  • Poor school attendance and grades
  • Loss of interest in favorite activities
  • Legal problems or problems at school
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Worsening relationships with family and close friends

Early intervention is critical to the teenager’s future.

Prolonged substance use conditions the brain to be dependent on the drug, making it difficult for teenagers to stop by themselves. Parents will then need to seek help from professionals who will diagnose the disorder and refer them to the appropriate level of care.

How Can Parents Help?

Parents should express their concern and offer support to their children instead of admonishing them about their bad choices. They should seek to understand the reasons why their teens started using drugs and talk about changes they expect from their children.

If the substance use is in its early stages, parents may be able to intervene and help their children quit on their own. Together with their children, parents should devise a plan of action, where they assess the situation and set boundaries that the teenagers should respect.

However, in cases where the teenager suffers from a substance use disorder, parents need to make sure their child receives professional treatment. Teenagers will have questions about what to expect in rehab centers or during treatment, so it is important to research before talking to them.

Every child is different. Doctors will screen the teenager for drug use and co-occurring disorders from which they will determine the necessary treatment. Some teenagers may be able to resume school while attending outpatient treatment. Others, whose addictions have progressed further, will require residential treatment.

A parent’s first role in their children’s recovery from addiction is to make sure they get the help they need. Parents should continue to support their children through the recovery process by attending family therapy, driving them to and from treatment, and monitoring their medication intake.

After treatment, parents should monitor their children and avoid potential triggers that may prompt a relapse. However, they should also keep an open mind if relapse occurs and ensure that their children go back to treatment.


National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016, January). What to Do If Your Teen or Young Adult Has a Problem With Drugs. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/treatment/what-to-do-if-your-teen-or-young-adult-has-problem-drugs

National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015. June). Nationwide Trends. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends

Sonia Tagliareni is a writer and researcher for DrugRehab.com. She is passionate about helping people. She started her professional writing career in 2012 and has since written for the finance, engineering, lifestyle and entertainment industry. Sonia holds a bachelor’s degree from the Florida Institute of Technology.