Experimentation with alcohol and drugs during adolescence is fairly common. “Unfortunately, teenagers often don’t see the link between their actions today and the consequences tomorrow. They also have a tendency to feel indestructible and immune to the problems that others experience,” warns the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“Teen drug use is a serious issue that impacts many teens,” wrote Tamika Murray on healthnews.com in March. “Recognizing the early warning signs of teen drug use could save lives.”
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), last year
- Almost 52 percent of high school seniors reported alcohol use.
- 19.5 percent of 10th graders and 30.7 percent of high school seniors used cannabis.
- 20.5 percent of 10th graders and 27.3 percent of seniors used nicotine vaping products.
- 8 percent of high school seniors used illicit drugs other than cannabis.
“Teen drug use comes with different warning signs,” Murray wrote. However, “not all teens will experience the same warning signs for teen drug use.” But many will exhibit changes such as:
- A decline in school performance
- Spending time with a new group of friends
- A lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- A lack of respect for parents or rules
- Disappearing for extended periods
- Trouble with the law (e.g. stealing)
- Decreased or increased appetite
- Causing or experiencing accidents or injuries
- Trouble with coordination
- Decrease or increase in sleeping
- Weight gain or loss
- Repeated illness
- Lack of motivation
- Decreased concentration
- Loud or obnoxious behavior
- Memory loss
- Feeling extremely high or low
Preventing teen drug and alcohol misuse is crucial. It should begin during the middle school years or even earlier. “To prevent teens from engaging in risky behavior like drinking alcohol or using drugs, you need to be consistent,” Murray wrote. “Starting a conversation with your teen about why they shouldn’t use drugs doesn’t need to be a lecture. You can bring up the topic and ask their thoughts about it, and you can also give ways to handle peer pressure.”
Speaking with teens isn’t the only way to prevent drug use. “Knowing where your teen is hanging out when they aren’t in school is important. Monitor their extracurricular activities and sports events,” Murray advised.”Meet your teen’s friends and their parents. If they want to spend time at a friend’s house, ensure there will be parental supervision.”
Parents and caregivers should also use positive reinforcement, encouraging the achievements of their teens, building them up for times when they face disappointments. Unfortunately, there are no guarantees; even the best parental efforts may ultimately not prevent teen substance use.
Many teenagers engaging in substance misuse eventually require professional treatment or else risk developing a full-blown addiction and other serious health problems. There is a new treatment option for teenagers at risk in the Denver area. Avanti Behavioral Health offers an intensive outpatient program (IOP) for clients between the ages of 13 and 18 in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Our mission is to provide comprehensive, holistic, family-centered, and trauma-informed care for teens.
Ideally, families are part of the healing process. A great way to get involved in the recovery of your teen is to participate actively in family therapy sessions. At Avanti Behavioral Health, we believe that recovery from addiction is a process that should definitely involve the immediate family. We have developed an effective and highly involved method of family counseling, focusing on multiple factors involving the existing family dynamic by examining the family unit and understanding the role of each individual family member.
For more information about our IOP and family programming call us at (720) 753-4030.