teenager getting drugs from male. Illustration for help teen overcome drug abuse article.

Many families are just not ready to accept the fact that substance abuse has become an issue to one of their children. Denial, anger, and shame often overwhelm parents to the point of inability to adequately address the situation. We’ve written this article to address how to help your teen overcome drug abuse.

Helping Your Teen Overcome Drug Abuse

Parents often try to implement stricter rules of discipline, without adequately understanding the condition. When punishment is met with resistance, a wider gap is created between the teen and the parent; consequently, gap communication also occurs. It is nearly impossible to understand your child when you cannot openly speak with them. Unfortunately, this emotional distance causes the teen to feel misunderstood, resentful and lonely. These distressful feelings are the typical reason so many teens turn to further drug use.

When all efforts fail, parents usually search for advice from “addiction experts.”  Unfortunately, this advice mostly comes from people that deal with addiction issues themselves rather than health care providers. Although they have the best intentions, their knowledge of brain function is insufficient for a correct diagnosis or proper recommendation.

Some of the most conventional advice parents receive is:

  • Let your child hit bottom.
  • Kick them out and let them figure it out.
  • Don’t waste your time; you have others in the family to care for and are willing to follow the rules.
  • An addict will always be an addict.
  • He is born with an addictive personality.
  • Addiction is a lifelong chronic disease with no cure.

These “addiction experts” forget that teenagers do not fully develop their brain until they are around their mid-20s. The typical teen substance use experimentation introduces toxic substances to an underdeveloped brain. As a result, this affects how they think and behave, leading to unstable, unpredictable and risky actions. Trying to discipline the teen out of the problem usually does not work. Focusing on negative behavior can escalate the issue.

Unfortunately, there are no exact formulas that will work for everyone, but there are tools that can help you engage with your teen in a positive and productive manner.

Talking About Drug Abuse with your Teen

There are many tools parents can use to influence their child positively. Instead of just letting your child fall apart (hit bottom) in front of your eyes; you need to see, hear and understand them. It is important to realize that the substances they are using are also affecting their reaction and response to the situation. They need your love, patience, and support more than ever.  Use the influence that you have wisely.

  • First and foremost, use positive reinforcement. Try to engage your child in healthy behaviors you know they enjoy and are good at.
  • Let them know you are here to work with them in finding a healthy path.
  • Ask them what they believe this path should be. Allowing the teen to have opinions, makes them feel less threatened and more in control. Having a voice on the matter also shows they are being heard, which can immediately reduce that emotional gap.
  • Talk “with them” and not “to them.”
  • Ask them what benefits they get from the drug use. As weird as this question might sound, this information is crucial in order to decide on the best treatment plan. Most of these young adults use drugs, especially opioids, to self-medicate emotional distress. Untreated conditions such as anxiety, depression, and trauma could significantly increase your child’s risk for substance abuse.

When you recognize and validate someone’s feelings, they feel seen and understood; consequently, the dynamics changes. Now a sense of bond and trust are reaffirming itself and there is a better chance to engage in a conversation regarding treatment options.

Early Intervention is Crucial

Intervene as early as you can. The physiological, emotional and social implications can be severe and irreversible. Also, it is much easier to help someone hold on to a life with friends, a job or school, rather than waiting for all of that to dissipate, which makes the recovery process much longer and more arduous. The presumption that allowing someone to hit bottom in order to realize what they are losing, is harmful and risky, especially when dealing with young adults.

Overcoming Drug Abuse

Seeking the best medical drug detoxification allows one to overcome the physical difficulties of drug abuse so that the emotional factors can be immediately addressed. As with any other medical condition, adequate diagnosis is half the treatment. Getting help from experienced and capable healthcare professionals can make the difference between failure and success. Sometimes learning new tools to handle frustration, anger, and fear is all it takes to engage in a healthy productive life. In other cases, psychiatric conditions might need therapeutic assistance and pharmacological intervention. Either way, there are a number of very successful treatments available for most emotional conditions.

Remember substance abuse is not who your child is, but a phase they are in.

Published on May 16, 2018

Reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC, Founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate Dependence

All topics for the Opiates.com blog are selected and written based on high standards of editorial quality, including cited sources. Articles are reviewed by Clare Waismann, CATC and founder of Waismann Method®, for accuracy, credibility and relevancy to the audience. Clare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, detox recovery, and other topics covered on the Opiates.com blog. Some articles are additionally reviewed by one of Waismann Method®’s specialists, depending on their field of expertise. For additional information and disclaimers regarding third-party sources and content for informational purposes only, please see our Terms of Service.